A preparedness mechanism for the city of Athens
Two and a half years after the beginning of the refugee and migrant crisis, Athens has accumulated experience and attained expertise in urban planning. In addition to non-governmental organizations that have de facto developed rich action, a big part of the municipality's services responded successfully to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis amid a complicated institutional framework.
The need for action
While the efforts have been increasingly geared towards refugees and migrants integration, we should not underestimate the fact that - without proper planning - in a case of emergency even a low number of unprevented new arrivals in the city can block the services provision system.
It is therefore necessary to create a system that recognizes the early signs of an upcoming crisis and is able to respond successfully. At the same time, there is a need for identifying best practices and deficits during the first phase of the emergency in 2015-2016.
A study for setting up a Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the City of Athens has been conducted on the initiative of the Vice–Mayor for Migrants, Refugees and Municipal Decentralization and of the Athens' Chief Resilience Officer. The process is being supervised by the Athens Coordination Center for Migrant and Refugee issues (ACCMR). The initiative is being developed with the financial support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the technical support of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). A Task Force to support the process is composed of representatives of the UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency, the City of Athens Resilience Office and the Directorate of Social Solidarity and Health.
Two workshops were organised at the 'Orange Groove' venue, courtesy of the Netherlands Embassy in Athens, with the participation of representatives of the Municipality, the Civil Protection Bureau of the Attica Region, the Reception and Identification Office, academics and representatives of non-governmental organizations aiming at first to identify specific crisis scenarios and analyse what could happen if a hazard occurs. In the second phase, participants defined response actions intending to set up an emergency response plan in line with the crisis scenarios.
These workshops have informed the wider study of the Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the City of Athens, which will include suggestions for the institutional integration of a preparedness and crisis management plan into the municipal structures.
One of the main goals of this effort is to introduce the concept of preparedness for refugees and migrants emergencies among senior municipal officials and promote a culture of early preparatory actions within the municipality.