Since the beginning of 2015, with Greece’s unprecedented number of migrant and refugee arrivals fleeing conflict, the City of Athens has increasingly adopted a proactive approach towards developing strategies to address the needs of these vulnerable populations. In this context, the City of Athens undertook the initiative to establish the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR). The ACCMR was established and has been operating since June 2017 with an exclusive grant from Stavros Niarchos Foundation under the “Migration and Refugees Coordination Center & Observatory" project and with the support of Athens Partnership which manages the implementation of the project. ACCMR operates within the framework of the Vice – Mayor’s Office for Migrants, Refugees and Municipal Decentralization.
When considering the current – and potential – added value of this scheme to any integration plan adopted at a local level, as well as the multiplier effects of this relatively low-cost mechanism, it becomes evident that the City of Athens Migrants and Refugees Project is a viable and sustainable venture, that could be considered a best practice not only for Greece but –possibly – for Europe.
The initiative promotes the efficient coordination between the municipal authorities and various stakeholders operating within the city, such as local and international NGOs, international organizations, migrant and refugee community groups. Its goal is to shape the necessary conditions for the smooth integration of migrants and refugees currently living in the city of Athens, but also for dealing with emergency situations linked with future migration flows.
The ACCMR functions as a coordination hub for generating proposals and initiatives on the city's migrant and refugee integration policies, to strengthen synergies and encourage common activities among its members, and to maximize the added value of programs that are implemented. In this context, a Strategic Action Plan for the smooth integration of migrants and refugees in the city, has been developed. Importantly, ACCMR in collaboration with key stakeholders is working to build a Preparedness Mechanism for effective contingency planning in the event of refugee-related emergencies. The Center also liaises with other municipalities in order to exchange and transfer know-how and experience.
ACCMR’s operation is organized around 5 Working Committees with the participation of both municipal and other actors involved in the provision of services to migrants and refugees, each focusing on a specific set of services (housing, employment, health, education, legal support), and all working towards defining a comprehensive service delivery system that takes into consideration the short-term and long-term goals of integration.