PRESS RELEASE 13/7/2022
Stepping Stone: helping refugees and migrants integrate to the job market in the midst of a crisis of lack of human resources
Neisi, an Iranian man speaking from his new position in Thessaloniki, said, “Finding work under these conditions is not easy. Without the support of METAdrasi I could not have found this job as a data analyst. It is exactly the work that fits my profile.”
Neisi is one of 92 young people who, in the last two months, with the help of METAdrasi, are taking their first steps in new jobs all over Greece.
More and more companies and hotel groups are contacting METAdrasi, seeking personnel, while lately 45 people on average per month are directed to the job market. Available positions are not only within the tourist sector: Refugees and asylum seekers are finding work in super markets, accommodation and food service activities, tech and communications companies, logistics etc.
There is a real crisis in finding personnel and employers are openly stating that they will not discriminate regarding nationality, colour or race and they are not afraid of being targeted for hiring refugees. METAdrasi President Lora Pappa states: “Often in the past we were told they wish to hire refugees, not only because of need, but because they want to help, however they asked for discretion. This has now changed.”
Aiming to support refugees in their integration into the job market, since 2017 METAdrasi, using its own funds along with support from the “Captain Vassilis and Carmen Constantakopoulos” Foundation, started a program called “Stepping Stone”. To date more than 1,200 persons have received support, while just in 2022, 162 people have found a permanent position, taking an important step towards integration into Greek society.
A small and dedicated team welcomes on a daily basis dozens of refugees and migrants, helps them write their CV, prepare for job interviews and supports them in collecting all necessary documents for their employment, as well as following their further career to avoid cases of “black work”. Iro, a member of the Stepping Stone team, says, “We face a number of problems with the issue of AMA, the opening of bank accounts and other bureaucratic matters which delay the immediate hiring of people who are fully qualified, but because of these problems, risk losing the job.”
Apart from the bureaucratic obstacles, the lack of knowledge of the Greek language is often the biggest problem for the integration of asylum seekers and refugees into the job market. The sole program funded by the European Union is addressed exclusively to recognised refugees, with the result that thousands of asylum seekers remain for long periods “trapped” on the islands and mainland structures, with no access to Greek language lessons. As soon as they acquire asylum status, they are required almost from one day to the next to stand on their own two feet, and find work in order to survive without speaking Greek.
This year, following persistence of many years, METAdrasi, with the support of the UNHCF as well as using its own funds, and in cooperation with the General Secretariat for Reception of Asylum Seekers, set up regular Greek lessons for adults in Kos, Samos, Chios and Lesvos. Iro declares, “We are constantly getting calls from people who live in the camps and that is why we are trying to find the funding to extend Stepping Stone outside of Athens, in Northern Greece and the islands where we provide Greek lessons.”
At the same time, due to the crisis in the job market, the Stepping Stone team inaugurated an “Interviews Day” during which company representatives from all over Greece come to the METAdrasi offices and conduct interviews on the spot with interested parties who have been selected according to their qualifications and the jobs available. Thodoris, another member of the Stepping Stone team, notes: “I remember last month, we had prepared 15 refugees and when the interviews with a staff member of a hotel group were completed, he said to us: ‘I am hiring all of them and I will urgently need another 100!’ I was glad, but at the same time I thought it such a shame that hundreds of refugees are languishing in the camps, while they could have been integrated into the job market and stand on their own two feet rebuilding their life with dignity.”
Since March 2016, when thousands of refugees were trapped in the country with the closing of the borders, until today, little has been done regarding integration compared to the other countries of the European Union. “If we had started from 2016 to systematically organize at least the basic, i.e. intensive Greek language courses for asylum seekers at the points of entry and in the mainland, today the majority of people living in camps would live in an apartment, have a legal job and possibly we would not be facing so strongly the crisis in finding employees that afflicts Greece. Unfortunately, the wider issue of successful integration of refugees in Greece has never been addressed seriously and with daring, at least in the last 28 years during which I have been involved with refugees”, states METAdrasi’s President, Lora Pappa.