Mayor: Konstantinos Zervas
The Municipality of Thessaloniki is the second largest Municipality of Greece in terms of population, with 325.182 inhabitants according to the 2011 census. It covers mainly the central area of the City of Thessaloniki, which consists of the Historic Center of the city, wider areas around it and the districts extending to the east of the city.
Since 2015, the Municipality of Thessaloniki has implemented a series of actions to address the challenge of increased refugee flows. These actions concerned issues of internal restructuring, coordination and cooperation with city services, other municipalities, international organizations and donors. Since the autumn of 2015, Thessaloniki has started building synergies with government agencies, international organizations, neighboring municipalities and civil society organizations, in order to coordinate actions for the proper management of the refugee crisis, in a way that ensures decent living conditions for the beneficiaries of international protection within the urban areas, while safeguarding social cohesion and peaceful coexistence between all social groups.
From 2016 until today, the Municipality of Thessaloniki implements the project REACT (Refugee Assistance Collaboration in Thessaloniki. REACT aims to contribute to the overall effort to address the refugee crisis in Greece, by identifying and managing 949 housing units in private apartments and 30 places at the Asylum Seekers Center – “Filoxenio”. REACT is part of the “ESTIA 2021: Housing for applicants for international protection” program, implemented by the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, funded by the Public Investment Program of the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and may be funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
Also, from 2016 until today, the municipality operates the “Community Center of the Municipality of Thessaloniki with Migrant Integration Center (KEM) branch”, co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Social Fund).
In 2017, the Municipality of Thessaloniki launched the Migrant Integration Council (SEMP), integrating refugees in its way of thinking and imagining the city. Thus, the municipality laid the foundations for the reconstitution of SEMP as an advisory body of the Municipality to strengthen the integration of migrants and refugees in the local community.
From 2020, the Municipality, responding to the needs of the times, proceeded with the appointment of a Deputy Mayor for Business Planning, e-Government and Migration Policy, thus establishing a new portfolio focused on matters of migration and refugees. Currently, George Avarlis is Deputy Mayor for Business Planning, e-Government and Migration Policy. This decision marks the special importance that the Municipality gives to the development of an organizational structure enabling the planning of strategy and activities for the smooth integration of refugees into local society.
Within the same year, a Project Team was set up with the aim of organizing, coordinating and implementing actions for the support and social integration of refugees and migrants.
In 2021, the Municipality of Thessaloniki founded an Internal Service Organization and the newly established Department of Integration and Support of Migrants, and Refugees was created. The Municipality of Thessaloniki has promoted the Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) as a strategic partner and operational arm in the field of social integration of refugees and migrants. MDAT S.A implements in collaboration with the Municipality of Thessaloniki a wide range of actions and interventions in the field of social integration of refugees and migrants, utilizing European, national and private funding.
Regarding the Migration Policy of the Municipality and as a business partner, MDAT S.A., through the Directorate of Social Sustainability & Integration, implements projects of local and supra-local character within the financial mechanisms of the EU, Greece and other National, European and International financial instruments. The projects concern the provision of social services for target groups who due to circumstances cannot have full access to services and therefore are at greater risk of marginalization and social exclusion, such as refugees, migrants, homeless people, people at high risk of homelessness, etc.
The Municipality of Thessaloniki organizes regular meetings with civil society organizations involved in the management of the refugee issue.
One of the most important endeavours in the field of social integration of refugees in the Municipality of Thessaloniki consists in the development and implementation of the REACT project, which has supported, from 2016 until today, 2,950 people.
In the framework of the Operational Program of the Region of Central Macedonia, the Municipality of Thessaloniki operates a Migrant Integration Center (KEM) as a branch of the municipality’s Community Center. The Migrant Integration Center operates in the 2nd Community of the Municipality due to the large concentration of refugees in the area.
The Migrant Integration Center of the Municipality of Thessaloniki operates since September 2017 as a “front desk” for Social Services, providing i, referrals to specialised social services, as well as processing of applications for state benefits (minimum guaranteed income, housing allowance, welfare – disability benefits) and the additional benefits provided to beneficiaries.
In addition, beneficiaries are connected with services outside the municipality (Tax Office, EFKA, OAED, Asylum Service, Ministry of Migration, etc.) depending on their needs.MORE (Greek)
Under the 3852/2012 Law, each municipality can establish and operate by decision of the municipal council, a council for the integration of migrants (SEM). SEM is an advisory body of the municipality to strengthen the integration of migrants in the local community. Migrant integration councils consist of five (5) to eleven (11) members, who are appointed by the relevant municipal council.MORE (Greek)
Prioritizing the provision of humanitarian aid and pioneering the creation of facilities to alleviate the refugee population, the Municipality of Thessaloniki in cooperation with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the funding of the European Union implements the innovative humanitarian project entitled “REACT 21” (Refugee, Assistance, Collaboration, Thessaloniki), as a coordinator of the Corporate Scheme which the following members:
The REACT program is part of the program “ESTIA 2021: Accommodation program for applicants for international protection” and its purpose is to contribute to the overall effort to address the refugee crisis in Greece.
The program is managing 949 housing positions in private apartments and 30 places in the Center of Asylum Seekers – “Filoxenion”, for vulnerable asylum seekers, providing a set of support and protection services, through a local network of organizations in the city of Thessaloniki, namely local authorities and non-governmental organizations.MORE (Greek)
The Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) implements the HELIOS program that aims to promote the integration of the beneficiaries of international protection in Greek society, who reside in temporary accommodation structures, through the following activities: Greek language lessons, accommodation support, employability, awareness-raising among local communities.
The development agency, among other partners, is active in the educational part of the Project in collaboration with YMCA Thessaloniki and the School of Modern Greek Language of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The HELIOS program aims to promote the integration of the beneficiaries of international protection in Greek society, who reside in temporary accommodation structures.
Specifically, at the premises of YMCA Thessaloniki operates the ILC Integration Training Center, a special area for the children of the beneficiaries where services are offered to support housing and employment. Integration courses have a duration of6 months each, and include modules of Greek language learning, cultural orientation courses, and modules related to skills development in relation to accessing the labour market.
In the framework of the European program URBACT III, the Municipality of Thessaloniki participates in the European network Arrival Cities. Under this network, in collaboration with neighbouring municipalities and local bodies, the city prepared a participatory and integrated Local Plan for the social integration of refugees.
With the participation of 10 European countries, the Municipality of Thessaloniki enriches its experiences by learning from the good practices of all European Partners.MORE
With regards to the Migration policy of the Municipality and as a business partner, the Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) , through the Department of Social Resilience & Inclusion implements local EU, Greece, and other National, European and International projects, the projects concern the provision of social services for vulnerable groups (such as refugees, migrants, homeless people, people at high risk of homelessness) that are unable to access the services they need, and as a result are at greater risk of marginalization and social exclusion.
The Affordable and Social Housing programs aim to provide technical assistance to the Municipality of Thessaloniki for developing a Strategy for Social and Affordable Housing and combating exclusion.
1. URBACT III ROOF Network
The Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) supports the Municipality of Thessaloniki in the implementation of the ROOF Network project (URBACT III ROOF Network) with the aim of combating homelessness and promoting the access to housing.
MDAT S.A. coordinates the local team (ULG) for the preparation of an Integrated Action Plan for Social and Economic Housing in Thessaloniki.
The Plan aims to promote the right to housing and improve access to housing for vulnerable groups, including migrants and refugees, as well as to create an affordable housing stock.
2. Social Rental Agency
The Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) is setting up a Social and Affordable Housing body.
The Agency supports the Housing Strategy of the city through the creation of a social and affordable housing stock aiming at combating homelessness and social exclusion in Thessaloniki.
The target group includes vulnerable groups who are at risk of being excluded from housing and who are currently receiving support and services from the social services of the Municipalities (beneficiaries of the homeless dormitory, beneficiaries of rent subsidy, beneficiaries of the national housing and employment program).
The program is expected to provide 30 houses within the first year of the implementation period.
The Major Development Agency Thessaloniki S.A. Organization for Local Development (MDAT S.A.) implements the following programs:
The EMBRACIN project aims to develop and test a model of integration that can be valid for all European Countries. Partners coming from different countries across Europe (Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Sweden), raise awareness and capacity building on integration policies topics among European local authorities, with the final aim to promote and engage the specific model.
Since January 2020, it has assisted recognized refugees. More specifically, 90% have joined the labor market, have received Psychosocial & Legal Support and are active in the field of volunteering in NGOs that support vulnerable groups.
2. Technical Assistance to the Municipality of Thessaloniki – Supporting the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan for the Integration of Refugees & Migrants
MDAT S.A. has received funding to provide a Technical Assistance Programme to the Municipality of Thessaloniki in support of the implementation of the Integrated Action Plan for the Integration of Refugees and Immigrants.
3. School plus neighbourhood
Supportive Teaching Program for Young and Adolescent Refugees, which is implemented by MDAT S.A. in cooperation with Solidarity Now.
The duration of the program is February 3, 2020, until December 2021.
4. Tech-it project
TMDAT S.A. in collaboration with the Non-Profit Organization “Solidarity Now” (SN) is carrying out the project “Tech-it” which aims to strengthen the IT skills of 155 young people (aged 16 to 25) in urban Thessaloniki, in order to assist them to access the labor market.
MDAT S.A. supports the Municipality of Thessaloniki in its participation in the following networks:
MDAT S.A. also participates in the Housing Europe Network.