Last update: 02.11.2016
Currently around 50’000 refugees are stuck in Greece. Most people who arrived before the 20th of March are staying in open military camps. People that travel to other European countries from Greece are at the moment not in danger of being deported back to Greece.
People arriving by boat to Greek islands after the 20th of March are kept in detention centers for up to 25 days, after which they get released, but must not leave the islands. This is because of the so called EU-Turkey Deal.
Find more information on the deal here:
Information for people who have to stay for longer periods of time in Greece you may find on the Website You can find there besides many more information:

  • useful contacts especially in Athens and Thessaloniki,
  • information on how to do an asylum application in Greece and what is important to know about the asylum procedure,
  • information on family reunification, a printable leaflet for family reunification can be found there as well;
  • about relocation to other European countries, a printable leaflet for relocation can be found there as well.
Here you find the PDF version of the latest ‘Welcome to Greece’ guide (last update Oktober 2016) available in three languages (arabic, farsi, english). Feel free to reprint it and to spread it in Greece.

iconpdf Arabic 1,4 MB | iconpdf Farsi 1,2 MB | iconpdf English 1,7 MB

State offered accommodation

  1. Reception centres run by NGOS. There are about 1000 places, half of which are for unaccompanied minors. All of them are full. You can apply for a place with an NGO or the asylum service. However, currently only highly vulnerable persons have a slight chance to get access to these centers. You may try through one of them, such as the Greek Council for Refugees.
  2. ‘Emergency reception sites’, which are in the majority run by the military in cooperation with the Ministry of Migration. Far from the urban centres, these camps often consist only of tents (few camps with pre-fabricated houses are found), sometimes attached to some old factory, military camp, sport stadium or a former workshop. These camps were at some point totally overcrowded. Specifically the better ones still are full. However, hundreds of people have left the camps, and yet, at least in the Attica Area, in most cases it is not possible to access these accommodation places just by going there and asking. But you should still try.
    The quality of these camps is very different. You will find a basic food supply everywhere, although people often say it’s awful. There should be showers, water taps and toilets – often they do not suffice though. Extras, like the provision with medical care, WiFi etc. vary. The Greek authorities try to persuade all refugees in the country to go to such camps and stay there. They announced to close some of the camps with poor conditions and to improve the better ones in order to turn them into long-term accommodation camps. Elaionas, Skaramangas, Lagadikia and Diavata are being advertised as good examples.
  3. UNHCR offered accommodation for relocation applicants, vulnerable persons and asylum seekers / family reunification applicants (the latter to a lesser degree). There are now 8.636 places in camps, rented flats or other forms of living which are constantly full and where it is very difficult to get access. UNHCR is increasing the number of these accommodation places constantly and there are plans to have 20.000 in the end.

If you have special needs or a family with children, you may still try to find a place in a reception center (see above).

Non-official accommodation

  1. In Athens, many hotels rent rooms to refugees. There are hotels near the station “Omonia” and around Aharnon Street. These rooms are often overpriced, but you may also be able to make a deal for a week or a month of stay.
  2. Many people also stay in informal hotels with co-nationals which are cheaper. There one can rent a room or just a corner to sleep on the floor. Showering and food are paid extra.
  3. A few hundred people are staying in squats, meaning empty houses occupied and used for living. Usually, they are full. They are run by different groups of people out of solidarity. You can still ask for a place there or put your name on a waiting list.

Camps in Northern Greece

From April this year, the military have set up many camps in the North of Greece, mostly around Thessaloniki or in the suburban industrial area. In some of these camps, NGOs collaborate with the officials and supply better food or do activities with the children. In other places, the military/police/private security don’t let anyone enter the camp who is not a refugee and check your papers when entering. The police or the military might warn you not to leave the camp or tell you that there was no public transport whatsoever. Double-check these information if you have the feeling that they just tell you that in order for you not to leave. You do have the right to come and go as you please, these camps are no detention centers. In case you disembark for the border, again the treatment is very different. Some police members might try to hold you back, others may not care at all.


Refugees in the Camp of Lagkadikia, Northern Greece (Greek λαγκαδικια), have organised themselves and improved their living conditions. They also try to get connected with people from other camps in order to create a broader support network among refugees. They are called “Jafra Team in Greece. Refugees to Refugees” (Here you find their facebook page).



The former official border crossing where most refugees passed to Macedonia was in the village of Idomeni, north of Thessaloniki. It is close to the town of Polykastro, where there are some hotels and a western union. The crossing in Idomeni is now closed even though there are still cargo trains that can pass several times a day when a gate in the fence opens. The area around the former border crossing is now fenced off and guarded by the Macedonian Army. The fence is several kilometers long and patrolled by soldiers. Both the Greek and the Macedonian Police might catch you in the border zone. The Macedonian Police might push you back to Greece.

A few months ago, the Greek police have started to catch people in the ‘Border Zone’ to Macedonia, even if they were still in Greece. Usually, you would get transported to one of the refugee camps around Thessaloniki. There is no risk to be imprisoned if still on Greek territory, at least if you are an adult and you have valid papers. If you are an unaccompanied minor, there is a small risk to be detained (see section below).


There is no fence between Greece and Bulgaria. By now, the Greek Police are not actively controlling migrants in the border zone. The Bulgarian border patrol is active, but rarely seen. Even at the official checkpoints, controls are rather rare. The crossing “Kapitan Petko Wojwoda-Ormenio“ close to the river Evros is an exception, there you will find frequent border controls supported by Frontex, the European Border Protection Agency.

Beware of rivers, they might be very deep and fast-flowing.

In Bulgaria, there is a racist citizens’ militia ‘guarding’ the Bulgarian-Turkish Border in order to keep away refugees. However, they do not patrol the Bulgarian-Greek border.

There is a small risk to get detained when the police catch you in Greece, regardless of whether you are close to the border or not. Official reason is that you have expired papers or if you are an unaccompanied minor.
Document your situation with photos. Keep them in your e-mail or facebook account. Keep contacts of any witnesses in case you are a victim of violence. You can report human rights violations in any country you are. Human rights violations might be a push back from Macedonia/FYROM to Greece, but also any form of violence by the authorities, inhuman and degrading detention etc.

If you have been hospitalized for psychological reasons or severe health problems or injuries that resulted from any form of attack or by any kind of accident during the border crossing, ask the doctors/hospitals for a paper that documents at least that you were examined or even better an attest on what you suffered from.

It might make sense to register the human rights violations you experienced with big and known organisation, such as the following in order to have some evidence for your asylum case. The following organisations are a selection of independent institutions (There are also many other organisations you can refer to in Athens. See contact list above!). Your data (name) will not be published if you don’t want it to. There are also possibilities to report human rights violations that were done by the Greeks to a national court with the help of a lawyer. Please seek legal advice for this in order to get detailed information on procedures, possibilities and limitations. If you lose your case before a Greek court and you have tried all legal national remedies without success, your lawyer can go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the Greek state. You can go before this Court also if you have reached another EU-country, but there are deadlines. Please seek legal advice soon enough.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Athens, Greece)
Tagiapiera Street 12, 115 25 Athens
Τel. 0030-

PRO ASYL (Germany)
Postfach 16 06 24
60069 Frankfurt/M. / Germany
Tel.: +49 (0) (Mo-Fr: 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-16.00)
Fax: +49 (0)

Amnesty International Greece (Athens, Greece)
Sina Street 30
106 72 Athens, Greece
(open Mo-Fr 10:00-15:00)