About International Organisation for Migration – IOM Athens

Greece has been traditionally one of the most important emigration countries following the Second World War. Greece is a founding member of IOM. The Athens Mission operates on the basis of an Agreement of 17 April 1952, between the Greek Government and IOM (ICEM). This Agreement defines the scope of IOM activities and sets out in detail its responsibilities.

National emigration flows lasted from 1952 to the mid 1970s. Since 1954, the Organization had initiated and offered vocational training courses to Greek workers, providing them with professional background, as well as cultural orientation to facilitate their integration into the host society. Greece Mission has assisted over 140.000 Greek national emigrants who settled in USA, Canada, Australia and other overseas countries.

During the 1980s, Greece became a transit country for Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners and Africans. IOM Athens organized and implemented the resettlement of 89.000 foreign migrants and refugees mainly to USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As from the beginning of the 1990s, Greece started receiving large inflows of immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe following the collapse of the communist regimes, with large number from Albania too.

As from 2007, the number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Greece by boat, (from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc) through the Aegean Sea, increased significantly. However, as from 2010, a shift from the sea to the land border has taken place, resulting in increased illegal border-crossings at the Greek land border with Turkey, which constitute approximately 85% of all the detections of illegal border crossing at the EU level. These large influxes of irregular migrants from Asia and Africa, who view Greece as a gateway to the European Union, end up being stranded in the country.

Through these years, and in order to cope with this situation, the Greek state implemented three regularization exercises. The main legislative instrument on migration is Law 3386/2005, “Entry, residence and social integration of third country nationals into the Greek territory”, providing for the unification of the residence and work permits, as well as introducing the “reflection period” for victims of trafficking. It has been revised under Law 3536/2007, “Determining matters in migration policy and other issues falling into the competence of the Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization”.

In 2011 the European Court of Justice found that 90% of all irregular entry into Europe was through the Greek borders. According to data from Frontex, Greece is the major gateway of undocumented migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and Asia.  Entry points into Greece have also changed.  In the past the usual route was by boat through the Aegean Sea.  Assistance from Frontex in patrolling the sea borders has resulted in a shift to entry by land, especially at the Evros border. Data from the  Law 3907/2011 is an attempt to establish a realistic migration management system, through the operation of an independent Asylum Service, the establishment of First Reception Centers and the adaptation of Greek legislation to Community Directive 2008/115/EC on the return of irregular migrants.

IOM also carries out counter trafficking activities, through partnerships with the National Coordinating Mechanism, the Hellenic Police, other Ministries and civil society and provides support to NGOs, as well as the implementation of voluntary returns of victims of trafficking.

Overview of IOM Athens Activities