Nearly 17,000 Migrants Returned Voluntarily from Greece in Past 3 Years


Athens –The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported today (30/08) that 16,954 third country nationals chose to return voluntarily from Greece to their country of origin over a three-year period from June 2016 through 28 August 2019.

Migrants from Pakistan (4,292) topped the list of 83 nationalities returning voluntarily with IOM assistance, followed by those from Iraq (4,187), Georgia (1,972), Algeria (1,308) and Afghanistan (1,295) (see chart below).

There were 12,017 male voluntary returnees, 2,817 female, and 2,120 children. IOM assisted the voluntary return of 3,666 migrants who were residing on the North-Eastern Aegean islands.

Some 4,270 of the returning migrants also received assistance to support a more sustainable reintegration into their local communities. Priority for the reintegration assistance was given to candidates in situations of vulnerability, while other factors were taken into consideration like work experience, skills and willingness of the candidate to develop a sustainable reintegration plan.

“I returned to Georgia in 2018 after four years of emigration in Greece. In Greece I worked in the construction sector. This programme enabled me to do the same work at home. I purchased tools for reconstruction work, I have my own business and I have a stable income. I have an opportunity to do a job I am good at,” said Giorgi Ormotsadze from Georgia, who now works as a constructor in Georgia and has implemented his reintegration plan under the project The Implementation of Assisted Voluntary Returns, including Reintegration Measures (AVRR).

Prior to departure and with the assistance of cultural mediators and AVRR officers, beneficiaries received return counselling during which they were provided crucial information as well as administrative assistance for acquiring travel documents. IOM then provided flight tickets, assistance at the airport and financial support to cover immediate expenses.

Extensive reintegration counselling sessions were conducted by IOM officers for the 4,270 eligible beneficiaries and through cooperation with IOM offices in the countries of origin. Their reintegration plans were developed in the interest of safeguarding their wellbeing and helping to ensure that they reintegrate into the local community in a sustainable way.

The beneficiaries’ work experience, their skills and willingness to follow through were key considerations in tailoring their reintegration plans. Following these counselling sessions, 3,751 returnees received in-kind reintegration assistance for starting up small businesses.

“As I am getting older, I prefer to be with my people in my hometown. I approached IOM in Athens and received information for the in-kind reintegration assistance. One month after my arrival in my country, I managed to set up my own business. It is called ‘Sari-sari store’, a grocery store in the Philippines with local products,” said Juliana Villa Sarile from the Philippines.

Through the duration of the project, IOM provided also tailored assistance for 1,345 migrants in vulnerable situations such as those with health needs (913), unaccompanied migrant children (123), elderly people (190) and pregnant women (97). 

Specialized IOM staff arranged pre-departure and travel assistance appropriate to the nature of pre-existing health conditions, conducted health assessments and referred beneficiaries to adequate medical services, escorted beneficiaries when needed and ensured continuity of treatment and requirements for specific arrangements during the return journey.

An Open Centre for migrants registered for assisted voluntary return and reintegration (OCAVRR) is also established near the centre of Athens to provide shelter and pre-departure care to particularly vulnerable migrants in Greece who have registered for the AVRR programme and have no place to stay until their departure. The purpose of the Open Centre is to ensure that migrants in vulnerable situations are enabled to prepare their return in safe conditions.

From June 2016 to the present, the open centre has provided shelter to 4,434 migrants, 4,170 of whom have departed for their country of origin.

The AVRR project has been co-funded 75 per cent by EU funds and 25 per cent by Greek national funds.

For more information, please contact Christine Nikolaidou at IOM Greece, Tel: +30 2109919040 (Ext. 248), Email:

  • Juliana returned to set up a ‘Sari-sari store’, a grocery store in the Philippines. Photo: IOM