IOM defines AVRR as the “administrative, logistical or financial support, including reintegration assistance, to migrants unable or unwilling to remain in the host country who volunteer to return to their countries of origin.” (IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019) and it is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management aiming at their orderly and humane return and reintegration to their countries of origin. AVRR project is a core activity of IOM and has provided vital assistance to tens of thousands of migrants returning to their countries of origin every year, for the last four decades. The decision of returning home is based on the principle of voluntariness and migrant’s request. Thus, a migrant registered with the program can decide not to return to the country of origin at any time. AVRR project has been at the heart of IOM's commitments to protect migrant's rights while ensuring the voluntariness of every return encompasses two elements, freedom of choice and an informed decision, which is taken upon the availability of timely, unbiased and reliable information. IOM Greece has been implementing AVRR programs since 2010, while the current AVRR project consists one of the largest AVRR operations within Europe. AVRR procedure contains information and pre-departure counselling sessions, assistance to obtain all appropriate documents (e.g. travel documents), air tickets and assist the individuals at the airport. Greece is in close cooperation with IOM offices in transit countries and countries of origin in order to assist the beneficiaries after their arrival.

IOM Greece

Established in 1951, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. To do so, IOM closely cooperates with intergovernmental and non-governmental partners, state institutions, civil society and migrants in every region of the world, promotes dialogue and cooperation on migration issues, develops research of the migration phenomenon as well as supports governments in understanding the complexity of modern migration. Greece is a founding member of IOM and its office in Athens operates since 1952, between the Government of Greece and IOM. Since then, IOM Greece has been offering services steadily to any moving population in need, always preserving human dignity and the right of free movement.

The main areas of IOM activity in Greece include:

  • Assisted voluntary returns and reintegration (AVRR)
  • Operation of Open Center in Attica for people registered for AVRR (OCAVRR)
  • Temporary accommodation for unaccompanied migrant children
  • Temporary accommodation for vulnerable groups coming from the islands
  • Site management support in the camps on the mainland of Greece
  • Management of safe areas for unaccompanied migrant children in RICs
  • Refugees integration into the Greek society in collaboration with the Greek Authorities

Who can participate in AVRR:

1. Migrants who have not yet received a final negative decision on their application for stay, legal residence and/or international protection as foreseen for them in Greece and who may opt for the voluntary return option;

2. Migrants who have been granted the right of stay, legal residence and/or international protection or temporary protection in Greece and who have chosen to opt for voluntary return;

3. Migrants present in Greece who no longer meet the entry or stay prerequisites.

AVRR assistance can also be provided to migrants in situation of vulnerability, such as victims of trafficking (VoTs), elderly people, unaccompanied migrant children (UMCs) and migrants with health-related needs.

Reintegration

Reintegration assistance is generally understood as a multidimensional process enabling individuals to re-establish the economic, social and psychosocial relationships needed to maintain life, livelihood and dignity, and achieve inclusion in civic life. ΙΟΜ asserts that reintegration support can only be successful if there is a level of re-inclusion across all dimensions. At the individual level, the specific needs of beneficiaries should be covered and support for these provided upon return. The notions of return and reintegration are intimately interlinked with that of sustainability.

”Reintegration can be considered sustainable when returnees have reached levels of economic self-sufficiency, social stability within their communities and psychosocial well-being that allow them to cope with (re)migration drivers. Having achieved sustainable reintegration, returnees are able to make further migration decisions as a matter of choice, rather than necessity.” (Towards an integrated approach to reintegration in the context of return, IOM, 2017)

Types of reintegration assistance in kind may include:


Setting up a small business (individually or in partnership)
Training programmes
Temporary accommodation
Psychosocial/legal support
Medical and material assistance
Job placement

OCAVRR

An Open Centre is established and operates near the center of Athens, aiming at providing accommodation to vulnerable migrants who are experiencing certain situations of vulnerability or specific needs (migrants with health needs, pregnant women, single-parent families, elderly migrants), registered to IOM’s AVRR projects and have no place to stay until their departure. The Open Centre is situated among hospitals, embassies of third countries and very near to the underground and bus stations.

Beneficiaries are migrants who are experiencing certain situations of vulnerability or specific needs, defined for the purpose of the project as:

  • single-parent families
  • pregnant women
  • migrants with health needs
  • elderly migrants
  • destitute migrants

The Open Centre provides services of vital nature to migrants in situation of vulnerability until they return to the country of origin with dignity, such as:

  • A safe place for staying
  • Three meals per day from catering services
  • NFIs (amenities, sanitary items and clothes)
  • Hot individual showers 24/7
  • Free laundry rooms
  • A recreation room with TV, Blu-Ray, Wi-Fi and telephones
  • Cleaning services
  • Security services
  • Medical services and psychosocial support
Voluntary returns and reintegration plans to Albania and Northern Macedonia are not implemented. *** IOM does not support voluntary returns to Syria at this stage.***

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