You R In – 2nd quarter activities (February 2018 – April 2018)

by Lamprini Basdeki

Youth Housing & Rapid Integration: Protection, psychosocial support and education for unaccompanied refugee children that become adults in Greece

2nd Quarter (February 2018 – April 2018)

During 2017 35,200 refugees arrived in Greece1. In 2018 we saw the arrival of 14,550 (January to April)2 with the country still falling short on meeting the humanitarian needs of those seeking international protection. The camps on the islands have reached three or four times their capacity and basic services are inadequate or inaccessible. On mainland, the accommodation schemes have reached maximum capacity, leaving many refugees including unaccompanied children homeless. From the estimated 3,1503 unaccompanied children, 2,137 remain on waiting list for a place in a shelter and over 875 children are reported to be homeless or living in informal housing where they remain exposed to abuse and exploitation.

At the age of 18 an unaccompanied child is no longer classified as vulnerable and loses any right to access protective shelter and support available to minors. According to Eurostat, in 2017 most of the new asylum applications between EU countries, in proportion to their population, were accepted by Greece. At the same time social inclusion and integration remain the most difficult challenges. Pathways into employment, access to education, social protection and health care are often restricted by the lack of support networks but also the country’s inability to economically recover from a 10-year crisis.

Ethos welcoming package

For the unaccompanied minors that become adults in Greece, there are sadly, extremely few initiatives that are helping them not to en

d up leaving in the streets. For the lucky few teenagers that find their way to Ethos programme, they are able to study and work while their basic needs are covered until they are ready to move to their own accommodation. Considering individual needs and priorities, each young person that enters our programme receives assistance with asylum and governmental processes (AFM, AMKA, OAED), access to cash support services and social solidarity benefits (in cooperation with UNHCR and Red Cross), access to public school, language classes, vocational training courses and life skills development activities. Our aim is to equip them with all the necessary skills and as they become more emotionally and financially ready to exit the project, to support them in moving into their own apartment.

Criteria for Participation

To ensure that our services are supporting the people who would benefit the most from our approach, there are specific criteria for participation. We recently amended one of the criteria regarding legal documents and we are now including young refugees who are waiting for the first decision on their application for asylum in Greece. This change was required since we wanted to ensure that we include all young people who intend to stay in Greece. The young adults we host that are waiting for reunification, are not motivated to attend school and they experience another stress level while waiting to be reunited with their families.

Current criteria for Ethos integration programme:

  • must be between 18-21 years old, or turning 18 within the next 2-3 months

  • must have basic knowledge of Greek or English language and the desire to learn

  • must be willing to develop and follow an individualised educational/vocational plan

  • must not have any criminal activity background or express antisocial behaviour

  • must have no record of alcohol and drug abuse or addiction behaviour

  • Have all the necessary documents for a legal stay in Greece or waiting for the first decision on the asylum application

New Referrals and Departures

During the second quarter our programme saw the arrival of three more young adults, growing the community within the apartment to 9 teenagers from 3 different nationalities. We received in total 15 referrals from other organisations (Arsis, IRC and IOM) out of which, 7 met the criteria of the programme. During the reporting period, two young participants left voluntarily the programme to pursue job opportunities in other areas of Greece. Our team conducted exit interviews to assess their stay and quotes included: “I thank each one of the team, they were all very nice to me. I’m going to find my friend in Athens, he’s working and I try to work with him (restaurant). One day I hope to be back in Thessaloniki and open my restaurant”.

Individualised Education Plan

During the first month of their stay, each young participant develops together with our integration team their personal educational/vocational plan. The table below outlines case by case, the activity plan developed together with each participant.


Project Entry Date



Education / Vocation Plan





Enrolled in public school. Attends Greek lessons at a community centre and a creativity workshop.

Finalised short term vocational training as barber.





Enrolled in public school. Attends English lessons at a community centre. Exit the program 29/03/2018





Attends English lessons at a community centre.

Applied to translation seminar.





Attends English lessons at a community centre and has German lessons with volunteer teacher at Ethos.





Attends Greek lessons at a community centre. Greek intensive lessons with volunteer teacher at Ethos.





Enrolled in public school. Attends Greek and English lessons at a community centre.





Attended English lessons at a language centre. Exit the program 20/03/2018





Enrolled in evening public school. Attends Greek lessons at a community centre.





Enrolled in public school. Attends Greek and English lessons at a community centre.

Food and Cash Management

The young people we host, are registered and receive cash assistance (150 euros per month) from UNHCR/Red Cross programme. Until the referral application is processed, which usually takes from 4 to 6 weeks, our team provides weekly cash support for supermarket in order to meet t

heir basic needs. Coming from protective shelters and safe zones, the young people have been used to catering services. For this reason, our team works with them on cash management, shopping and cooking in a cost-effective way, to help them adapt to their new semi-independent home. Moreover, the programme provides supplies for common use that are agreed between the participants, cultivating a reasoning of planning in advance and organising needs as a group. Additionally, our young participants receive a biweekly delivery of basic food such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, oil, rice and flower supplied by Intereuropean Human Aid Association (IHA).

Below we present an indicative table of cash provision for our new participants, prior to receiving UNHCR/RC cash assistance:

Participant 7: 80 € cash support – 4 weeks

Participant 8: 140 € cash support – 7 weeks

Participant 9: 100 € cash support – 5 weeks

Psychological Support

Unaccompanied children have been exposed to multiple potentially traumatic events that challenge their transition into adulthood. Ensuring them access to specialised support is critical for their social and psychological wellbeing and integration. To facilitate this, we run group sessions on a weekly basis with an Arabic speaking counsellor and an English/Greek speaking psychologist who work closely with our social worker on supporting emotional wellbeing. Individual coping skills are nourished progressively in a safe space that enables the boys we host to cope with their trauma. Most boys have been making noticeable progress in dealing with negative feelings and emotions.

Another psychosocial support group with all the residents has been organised by our therapists, where the boys gather to create a community and to unite their cultures. The main aim is for all to explore similarities and common perceptions and to find grounds for developing wider cultural awareness and acceptance. Group activities include outdoor walks, exploring the city together, art and crafts creation, cooking traditional recipes as well as discussions that encourage openness and trust among our participants.

The impact from our activities is visible and observed according to the following indicators:

Keeping their motivation and become more active

Finding better ways to communicate with each other

Creating a community where they feel safe and supported

Expressing themselves more freely

Having a sense of belonging

Having a sense of family

Feeling like home

The young men have been deprived of emotional connections for long periods, therefore support networks are essential for their wellbeing and inclusion in a new society. For this reasons, we focus on building links with the local community, civil society movements and grassroots initiatives. We aim to create a strong network for the young people, that can help them navigate the challenges of life after leaving the programme.

Legal Aid

Supporting with legal aid is a priority for the team as many of our young participants are not able to make any future plans if they feel insecure with their asylum process. Currently one young adult who entered our programme in January is still struggling with his reunification procedure; our team has linked him with the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) where he receives specialised legal support. All our participants that need appointments for legal aid or for the asylum service, are accompanied by our Social Scientist who follows up on their applications.

Another young person that we host, after waiting tirelessly for his reunification procedure recently reviewed his application and applied for asylum in Greece. He gained back his motivation and in just a few weeks he started working in one of the neighbourhood’s supermarkets.


All our young participants fulfil the legal requirements in order to work in Greece, while most of them can easily communicate in daily Greek. However, due to the very high levels of unemployment (more than 50% of 18-25 year-old are unemployed) it is extremely difficult for all people who live in Greece to find work. Our team has completed a detailed skill profiling of all participants (UNHCR profiling pdf tool) and is actively looking and sending applications with them, to help them break the barrier of first employment. Some of the young adults have been able to find short term jobs in agriculture and production however there seem to be very few opportunities available.

Social entrepreneurship and start-ups related to service provision and grassroots cooperative initiatives related to food production/processing are both explored at local and regional level, while our team is actively participating at the social economy development working group hosted by IOM and the Municipality of Thessaloniki. Further links to social entrepreneurship networks have been established across Europe for exploring good practices and ideas that have succeeded in other countries and can potentially be relevant to the Greek context.

Life Skills

Life skills are defined as psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.1 In our programme we aim to cultivate life skills in a holistic way and to empower the boys into becoming independent and responsible adults.

Cooking is a basic life skill which all young men are encouraged to learn. By helping each other and exchanging tips and recipes, all young men are able to produce food and prepare delicious meals, and do not hesitate to invite their friends and our team to eat together. The cooking activities organised by our team are becoming fewer as the boys become more self-sustained and further able to prepare food and learn new recipes on their own.

Hygiene and keeping a clean house is an ongoing activity organised on a weekly rotating schedule that includes a day of general cleaning every 2 weeks. Furthermore, the young men have laundry and ironing are part of their weekly schedule and get introduced to dressing norms, like picking the right outfit for every occasion.

Our team cultivates budgeting skills by supporting the boys in preparing monthly budgets and spending trackers that assist them to save money while buying goods from the local market. Despite the small amount available to them, most of the young boys are able to save money to buy some of the goods they want, like new clothes or gadgets.

Developing time management and organisational skills is an ongoing activity where our team is supporting the boys to learn how to plan their week and prepare a schedule, never missing appointments and keeping a personal calendar for their studies and civil obligations.

Navigation skills in the city and broader area are taught upon entrance to the programme. With the use of technology and with ongoing activities around the city, the young men have demonstrated that they can move around independently, not only in Thessaloniki but also between surrounding cities.

Recreational Integration Activities

For the boys that attend public school, integration is already happening in the classroom and naturally by forming friendships with their classmates. Further to attending workshops, artistic exhibitions and musical events, the young men are regularly playing football and go to the local gym. One of the young men bought a bike to move around the city and joined the local kick boxing club. All our participants are encouraged to find activities they like and our team supports them by creating links with local groups and like-minded people. The next step that will complete their path to integration, is to find a job that matches their skills and interests. Once they have secured a stable income, these young adults are now ready to move into their own home and can continue their studies while building their life in Greece.

Challenges and next steps

The programme has been able to complete the pilot phase successfully within the expected timeframe of 6 months and with all current participants ready to move into their own independent accommodation. Despite the fact that all our 7 participants are emotionally ready and equipped with the necessary skills to move forward in their life, the main challenge remains job insecurity and low demand in the country’s employment market. This limiting factor can be gradually reduced with the growth of a resourceful network that would be able to move ideas forward and secure the financial support required for developing individual business ideas, start-ups and cooperative structures that could offer stable employment.

Case Studies

R’s Story: The Long Road to Safety

R is 18 years old and fled Pakistan as an unaccompanied minor – he was just 16 years old. Forced to leave after threats on his life by family members, he crossed into Iran on foot before travelling thousands of miles across Iran and Turkey. He was then smuggled into Greece by boat.

Now, R’s future is on hold. His application for asylum was recently rejected, despite strong evidence to support his case.

After two years in Greece, he speaks Greek and English and goes to public school, but, without being granted asylum, he has a difficult time keeping his hope and motivation. R has one foot in Greek society, but the next step is now uncertain. He became tired and depressed. The constant uncertainty prevents him from seeing a future in the country.

We offered R a place in Ethos youth integration programme, where he lives in a safe environment and receives psychological support and assistance with his legal procedures. By supporting him emotionally, providing assistance in his case for asylum and helping him make plans and develop skills for independent living, his future looks brighter.

A’s story: a childhood cut short

A is 18 years old from Afghanistan. When he was 16 he was forced to flee the country after the brutal murder of his parents and two sisters. A and his younger brother managed to escape and they began the long journey to Europe with the hope of being united with their uncle in the UK.

They crossed over into Iran on foot and then into Turkey, where their only chance of reaching the European Union was a small, inflatable rubber boat. On the journey to the Greek island of Samos, the boat was ruptured and sank. Thankfully, the boys were found and rescued by the Greek coastguard.

After 3 months in a camp on Samos, A was transferred first to Athens, then to another camp in Northern Greece, before being admitted to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Thessaloniki. With such a terrifying ordeal, he was completely withdrawn and felt unable to trust anyone. His sense of isolation was made worse by the fact that he did not attend school. He became frustrated and angry with his situation.

We offered A a place in Ethos youth integration programme. We provided him a safe place in our apartment and the opportunity to work together with our psychologists and social workers. Our team has enrolled him in school, and developed activities and counselling sessions for him. He is now working on his plan to further education and employment.

A says the work that has been done in the shelter has helped him to put aside his traumatic memories and that he found a safe environment to feel optimistic and motivated again. Day by day he finds himself becoming more social with the staff and the other boys in the shelter.

 Unicef, Definition of Terms,

1 UNHCR fact sheet December 2017,

 EKKA, UAC in Greece, April 2018,