Thessaloniki Report Launch: Profiling of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Third Country Nationals

20.Jan.2020
By Emma Ward (JIPS)

We are excited to share the news of the profiling report from Thessaloniki, Greece, which was launched by partners in-country in December 2019. The result of a collaborative effort between the Municipality of Thessaloniki, UNHCR, various UN agencies and international NGOs, as well as Greek NGOs and volunteer groups, this report provides a shared and sound evidence base to better understand the situation and future intentions of refugees, asylum seekers and third country nationals not registered with the Asylum Service.

The event was kicked off with opening remarks and keynote speeches from Mr. Charis Aidonopoulous, the Deputy Mayor of Thessaloniki, and Mr. Luca Curci, Head of UNHCR’s sub-office, and followed by a discussion with all profiling partners. Moderated by Ms. Melina Spyridou, Head of the Department of Social Protection and Public Health of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the session offered an opportunity to discuss key results and recommendations from the profiling report as well as hear about some of the current integration initiatives of different actors, such as IOM’s Helios programme.

 

The profiling process and durable solutions analysis approach

Following the influx of people via the Greek-Turkish land border, and against the backdrop of a lack of information about the urban refugee population residing in the greater area of Thessaloniki, the city’s Municipality together with UNHCR and the wider humanitarian community decided to conduct a comprehensive urban profiling exercise. Upon their joint request, JIPS provided support throughout the process, both through engagement in an advisory capacity and offering technical support.

The profiling exercise looked at the situation of two target groups:

  • Refugees and asylum seekers who arrived in Thessaloniki after January 2015, to develop a demographic profile and analyse progress towards their local integration. This group was categorised/stratified by accommodation situation (urban accommodation scheme; accommodated with own means in the city; and registered residents in a ‘site’ close to the city – called Open Reception Facility of Diavata). A comparative analysis of these three groups was done.
  • Third country nationals not registered with the asylum service in Thessaloniki, to understand their demographic profile and analyse key challenges that they face, such as legal documentation and homelessness. The sample was established through snowballing and convenience sampling (thus not random and of unknown representativity), and included persons residing unofficially in the Diavata site, those hosted informally by individuals, and those in a situation of homelessness.

The profiling exercise furthermore aimed to produce a baseline and a set of indicators for measuring the degree of local integration. To achieve these objectives, the exercise combined a household survey with qualitative data collection, and also tested out community engagement at two key stages of the profiling exercise to ground-truth the approach and the results. This was specifically done:

Focus group discussions were organised per group (refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants) and sex (men, women).

  1. During the research design phase, interactive sessions were organised with refugees and asylum seekers, to better understand the concept of ‘integration’ from their perspectives. This included asking participants to prioritise various elements of local integration depicted on cards (e.g. language skills, work, documents, access to services, etc.). The results influenced the selection of local integration elements to focus the survey on.
  2. During the analysis phase, group discussions with refugees and asylum seekers were held in order to communicate back the key results in a visual and accessible manner, while also jointly discussing the interpretation of key results.

At JIPS we provided extensive on-site as well as remote technical support throughout the process, including several missions to Thessaloniki during which we delivered a three-day Profiling Coordination Training to get partners on the same page about the profiling exercise, and facilitated workshops to help partners define objectives and the methodological approach, define indicators, review preliminary findings and shape the analysis. Particular focus was given to engaging communities in the process; both in the very beginning to better understand the concept of local integration from the perspective of the refugees and asylum seekers in order to inform the analysis framework, but also towards the end where results were presented and jointly interpreted with refugees.

 

Key findings – refugees and asylum seekers

Basic demographics of of refugees and asylum seekers

▶︎ Future intentions

The report found that a majority of the refugees and asylum seekers residing in the accommodation and self-accommodation schemes intended to stay in Thessaloniki (60% and 76% respectively). Finding employment and a recognised legal status were indicated as the main conditions for local integration.

However, among those residing in the Diavata Open Reception Facilities (ORF), more than a third (38%) stated wanting to move on to another EU country. For those intending to stay (45%) in Thessaloniki, local integration was strongly linked to finding a different accommodation solution to what they have at the time of surveying.

▶︎ Livelihoods

It was found that 73% of women were not working and not looking for work, compared to only 24% of the male working population (working aged person 15-67 years). Half of the economically inactive women reported household responsibilities as the reason for their inability to work/seek work. Overall, the lack of jobs as well as of Greek language skills were indicated as the main obstacles to finding employment across all strata.

Economic inactivity was observed to be higher in the accommodation scheme and the Diavata site. In comparison, the self-accommodated persons indicated a greater capacity for self-reliance, with 34% working and 53% looking for work. Nevertheless, this population group also indicated more often being unable to cover foreseen monthly expenses and tended to make more use of the free humanitarian services.

▶︎ Housing and tenure security, access to services

Tenure security was observed to be higher for self-accommodated persons, with a vast majority (81%) of those renting their own apartment (75%) having a contract while 75% of households in the accommodation scheme and the ORF didn’t know how long they could stay there.

At the time of the profiling exercise, no major issues were observed. However, in light of the 2019 changes in the legal environment, additional research may be necessary to assess the overall impact.

 

Key findings – third country nationals not registered with the Asylum Service

Basic demographics of third country nationals

The report showed that there are double as many men compared to women, with the overall population of this target group being noticeably young with 82% being younger than 35 years of age.

▶︎ Future intentions

Of the 336 individuals surveyed, 75% stated that they intended to apply for asylum in Greece and 48% indicated wanting to stay in Thessaloniki.

▶︎ Housing and livelihoods

The vast majority (84%) of the respondents that had arrived within the month preceding the data collection, and about half of those having been in Thessaloniki between one and six months, were in a situation of homelessness.

Police note holders and persons with expired, or no documentation do not have the right to work legally in Greece, therefore it is unsurprising that 41% of the households with no documentation reported to have no income, 28% were using their own savings and another 18% were receiving money from family and friends abroad. Also, engagements in negative coping mechanisms, such as sex work, were highlighted informally to enumerators.

▶︎ Access to services

While a majority (55 out of 61 households) had managed to visit a health care facility, mainly an NGO clinic, the lack of Asylum Service documentation hindered the access of those persons to municipal services and others such as education.

 

Key recommendations

As was emphasised during the launch event, the profiling results and analysis remain highly relevant. A comparison between the demographic data from the exercise (collected mid-2018) and recent UNHCR registration data (ProGres) shows that the basic demographic characteristic of the populations included in the study have not changed much.

The report launch event in Thessaloniki thus also offered the opportunity to jointly review the set of recommendations, share initiatives taken by partners since the data collection, and discuss potential further action points. Key recommendations from the report that were specifically highlighted at the launch event included the need:

  • To offer officially recognised Greek language courses, as the lack of Greek language skills was highlighted as a significant obstacle, and combine the courses with child care provision to enhance women’s access.
  • To create positive conditions for access to housing, including the promotion and support of affordable housing programs.
  • To ensure better access to information on the asylum process and the local services available.
  • To ensure that services provided in urban areas must meet the needs of the local community as well as those of refugees and asylum seekers.

The comprehensive profiling report from Thessaloniki, Greece is available to download (in English and Greek).

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