- Activity fields
International Rescue Committee Hellas (IRC)
The International Rescue Committee started operating in Greece in 2015, on the island of Lesvos, in response to the unprecedented number of refugees arriving on the island at the time.
Since the start of programming in Greece, the IRC has provided support and protection services in both camps and urban settings. Directly, or in collaboration with partners, we have provided shelter, emergency supplies, safe transportation, access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, vital, reliable, and up-to-date information, protection for vulnerable groups (including 24/7 care for unaccompanied children), mental health and psychosocial support, as well as employability services to refugees and asylum-seekers and other vulnerable individuals in Greece.
At the moment, we implement the following programmes:
In August 2019, IRC Hellas launched a new child protection programme aiming at supporting unaccompanied children -16 years old and above- to become self-reliant and transition to adulthood smoothly. IRC supports 20 adolescents through semi-independent accommodation, individual and group psychosocial support, legal counselling, non-formal education, recreational activities and skill-building activities.
The Supported Independent Living (SIL) programme for unaccompanied children has been a pilot programme in Greece since 2018 and is considered quality alternative care, which promotes individualised support, in line with the best interest of each child.
Women’s Protection and Empowerment
In September 2018, IRC Hellas partnered with civil society actor Diotima and two key state institutions, the General Secretariat for Family Policy & Gender Equality of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the National Research Centre for Gender Equality, to launch a project to strengthen Greek gender-based violence (GBV) services and to enhance transnational dialogues and exchange of best practices and tools for GBV prevention across Europe.
The main activities of the project are the training of female cultural mediators and employees of state social services, and the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and referral mechanisms to respond to GBV. Other activities include seminars for professionals, creation of awareness material and a regional online platform for resource sharing to boost cross-border learning and best practices in Europe. Since its launch, trainings have been offered to more than 180 GBV front-line service responders, such as police officers, midwives, psychologists from government institutions, municipalities, hospitals and NGOs.
Since March 2018, IRC Hellas has been offering a comprehensive mental health and psychosocial support programme on the Greek islands. The programme focuses on providing support to asylum seekers that reside in the Reception and Identification Centers (RICs, also known as ‘hotspots’) of Moria on Lesvos and of Vial on Chios, and will launch an intervention on Samos by the end of 2019. The people we see are forced to live in sub-standard, overcrowded camps, where tension and violence are a daily occurrence. These living conditions and the uncertainty about the future trigger or exacerbate pre-existing trauma.
Since 2018, we have supported over 660 of the most vulnerable people. About 50% of cases were either survivors of torture or Gender Based Violence or both, with a variety of severe symptoms like depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts. Since 2018, nearly 45% of IRC’s cases had considered committing suicide and half of this group (26%) had actually attempted suicide. Most cases significantly improve during the time they receive treatment from IRC: according to our surveys, 93% of our cases indicated that their mental health conditions had improved at the end of the treatment compared to the beginning. In addition to treating people directly, IRC advocates for individual cases to be moved out of the hotspots and for the conditions in the hotspots to be improved.
Supporting accommodation on Lesvos
IRC Hellas has been present in municipal refugee camp of Kara Tepe since its establishment in 2015. The site provides quality accommodation to an average 1,200 of the most vulnerable refugees, mainly families, including approximately 750 children, who have recently arrived on Lesvos We ensure that quality infrastructure, water, sanitation and hygiene services and shelter are available, as well as provide support the site management. Additionally, we have distributed more than 400,000 non-food items, such as cleaning and hygiene supplies since February 2016, and provided transportation services to the most vulnerable. The IRC also supports the operation of the transit site ‘Stage 2’ in Skala Sikamineas, with cleaning, small-scale care and maintenance. People who arrive in the northern part of Lesvos from Turkey, receive basic assistance and a place to stay overnight in this transit site until the authorities are ready to receive them in the reception and identification centre.
Economic Recovery and Development Programming
The focus of IRC’s Economic Recovery and Development team is to support refugees, migrants and vulnerable host populations with integration - especially into the labour market. Since 2017, IRC Hellas has provided directly and in collaboration with partners employment and self-employment services and skills development to over 1,800 people.
Employability: The IRC, together with its partners, the Municipality of Athens and Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality and Diversity provides employability services, such as individual career counseling, help with job search, and job readiness workshops that develop crucial employability skills, as well as an introduction to labour rights and familiarisation with Greek work culture. Over 1,400 people have received employability support to date.
Entrepreneurship: The IRC, together with its partner the Alba Graduate Business School, the American College of Greece, provides self-employment support to youth refugees, migrants and vulnerable Greeks. Clients receive business training and coaching and have the opportunity to apply for start-up grants and further mentorship.
Working with partners
Since the launch of operations in 2015, IRC Hellas is committed to working in partnership to create strong, effective and harmonized interventions. We have officially partnered with 11 civil society organizations, one educational institution and have been part of 2 consortia with a total of 8 participating organizations. We have acquired valuable experience on the dynamics and needs of civil society in Greece through collaborating and forming partnerships with: Diotima Solidarity Now, Faros, METAdrasi, Greek Council for Refugees, Organization Earth, Generation 2.0, Lesvos Solidarity, Athens Partnership, Society for Social Psychiatry and Mental Health, Alba Graduate School.
Working with Municipalities
IRC Hellas collaborates with the Municipality of Lesvos, supporting the operation of the municipal open accommodation camp of Kara Tepe. In 2018, the IRC supported the Athens Partnership and the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR) to assist other Municipalities that are part of the ad hoc “Cities Network for Integration” to develop tools and procedures to enable and facilitate the integration of refugees and migrants within their territory. The IRC also supported the Municipality of Piraeus to develop its Strategic Action Plan for the integration of migrants and refugees as well as the Municipality of Athens to develop its Emergency Preparedness Plan.