Greece - IOM yesterday (31/1/13) completed a 12-month Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programme to help 851 irregular migrants from 36 countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Georgia and Ghana to return voluntarily to their countries of origin from Greece.
The project, which was EUR 1.1 million funded by a European Economic Area (EEA) grant backed by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, also helped 23 victims of human trafficking to return home.
Greece is a major transit country for thousands of irregular migrants trying to reach Western Europe. But many decide to return home when they become stranded, jobless and are forced to sleep on the streets of Athens. In the course of the EEA project, IOM Athens registered over 1,000 third country migrants who asked IOM for help to return to their countries of origin.
To implement the project, IOM visited the main entry points for migrants, including Mytilini, the capital of Lesvos Island, and Patras, the main port of exit for irregular migrants heading to other European destinations. It also visited the recently established detention centre for irregular migrants in Korinthos to inform detainees about the programme.
IOM staff interviewed all potential beneficiaries to learn about their final destinations and to explain the programme. Cards providing relevant information were also printed in 12 languages and distributed, and a TV public service announcement was also screened.
IOM provided a small grant to all returnees to help them with initial expenses. IOM missions in transit and destination countries also provided travel assistance.
“This is a very popular programme among migrants who otherwise had no means to return home. IOM Athens has registered a total of 10,691 migrants to date who have expressed desire to return to their countries through various AVR programmes. The largest AVR project that IOM Greece is implementing at the moment, funded by the European Return Fund, will end in June 2013 and will have assisted 7,000 returns. But there is a real need for ongoing funding of AVR activities in Greece,” says Daniel Esdras, IOM Chief of Mission in Greece.
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