Cite as: Kourachanis, N., 2018, 'From camps to social integration? Social housing interventions for asylum seekers in Greece', International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, DOI:10.1108/IJSSP-08-2018-0130
Purpose: This paper offers an empirical study of the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation (ESTIA) programme, as the policy initiative for the provision of housing and social integration for asylum seekers over the last few years in Greece. Greece is a country that is geographically situated on the southern external borders of Europe and has been experiencing a rise in refugee flows since 2015. At a first glance, it seems that ESTIA’s central aim is social integration. The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether the design and implementation framework of ESTIA essentially promotes the goal of social integration or whether it is merely a gesture that has no real effect. Design/methodology/approach: The field research focussed on an evaluation of the ESTIA programme on the basis of its impact on the social integration of its beneficiaries. This was attempted by examining the attitudes and perceptions of key stakeholders during its design and implementation stages. In order to examine these dimensions, qualitative research methods were developed. In particular, in-depth interviews were conducted with key informants involved in the design and implementation processes of ESTIA. Findings: Social integration is something much more than providing permanent shelters to asylum seekers. ESTIA has been designed and implemented with a view to providing better temporary housing conditions for its beneficiaries. The rest of the range of actions for their social actions was left to voluntary actions by the implementing agencies, without offering them any financial support – a fact that suggests that the use of the term “social integration” in relation to this programme is disingenuous. Such an intervention does not aim at significant social integration but, primarily, the temporary management of extreme impoverishment. ESTIA can, therefore, be added to the scientific literature as yet another case study where the complex concept of social integration is misused by the EU and European states to legitimise the policies of repression and control of refugee populations. Originality/value: This is the first field research that examines the design and implementation framework of ESTIA, the most important programme for the social integration of asylum seekers in Greece. The presentation of research findings is expected to make a significant contribution to the improvement of many aspects of the design and implementation framework of ESTIA.
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