“A two-tier refugee response”: Greece’s welcome of people fleeing Ukraine stands in stark contrast with others seeking safety

The Greek government is operating “a two-tier refugee response” - one for Ukrainians and one for all other refugees according to a new briefing by the Greek Council for Refugees, Oxfam and Save the Children.  

The briefing details how, in the last two months, people fleeing Ukraine who are seeking protection in Greece were given swift access to protection, health care and the labour market. The Greek government has also started providing accommodation and support to buy food, the organisations said.  

In the same period, there were multiple incidents of violent “pushbacks” of asylum seekers from elsewhere - including cases of children and pregnant women who were detained and transferred by boat to islets in a river at the border. In mid-March, asylum seekers reported that a 4-year-old Syrian child tragically drowned after falling from a boat in one of these operations. 

The Greek government has also set up an easy-to-use online registration process for Ukrainians seeking protection. In contrast, the registration of asylum applications in mainland Greece is almost completely dysfunctional and inaccessible for other nationalities, and Ukrainians who had arrived in Greece prior to 26 November, the report says.  

The report details other instances of discrimination and differential treatment, with Ukrainians called “real refugees” and other people seeking protection labelled “illegal immigrants” by government officials. There were also reports that Afghan refugees in camps in Serres Camp in northern Greece are being forced to leave the containers in which they have been staying and move to a dilapidated part of the camp, to make space for newly arrived Ukrainians. 

The research in Greece was conducted by the Greek Council for Refugees, supported by Save the Children and Oxfam. The findings and recommendations in Greece could be relevant to other European countries that are hosting people who have fled Ukraine as well as refugees from other countries. 

Read the joint briefing from Greek Council for Refugees, Oxfam and Save the Children here

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