Working Together for Local Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Athens
Migrants, including native-born children with migrant parents, account for 23% of Athens’ population (664 046 people), while the number of refugees and asylum seekers has rapidly increased since 2015 and is currently estimated at 18 000. To respond to the refugee inflow, Athens developed bold and innovative initiatives, often beyond their direct responsibilities, and sought supra-national and non-state sources of funding (i.e. Stavros Niarchos Foundation, British American Tobacco, etc.). This emphasis on reception and integration of newcomers is the result of strong political will and cooperation with non-state actors, in line with the city's broader priorities since 2010 including anti-discrimination and improving equal access to social services. Integrating newcomers through jobs is particularly challenging given the high unemployment rate that Greece has experienced. In addition, newcomers often have the desire to continue their journey towards northern European countries, reducing their incentives to integrate and learn Greek. While identifying various innovative practices, the OECD case study of Athens highlights the need for more reliable sources of financing and dialogue among levels of government. Data on migrant integration at the local level would support more evidence-based national, regional and local policy making.