The problem identified by Athens is the long-term inactivity that characterises a large part of its recently arrived refugee population, adding up to a similar condition of its own local unemployed people. This is one of the “limbo” aspects pointed out in the city of Athens, which in its eighth consecutive year of crisis witnesses a growing number of properties remaining vacant, topping to the overall isolation all of its inhabitants equally experience.
We estimate that about 13.000 refugees reside currently in the municipality of Athens, a city they did not choose as a final destination, stranded after the closing of the borders. They need to find incentives and motivation to become part of the society, despite the unevenness of the surrounding reality, where the rate of local unemployment exceeds 20%, the highest among the EU countries.
The challenge is how to activate the refugee population, capitalising on the vibrant civil society of Athens that has been spreading in the city offering its intelligence to the emerging pressing urban needs. Using these invaluable results at the opposite end of the crisis we aim to overturn the established inertia and offer positive impact to the city at a wider scale.
The “Curing the Limbo” project capitalises on Athens’ vibrant civil society to help refugees and the local unemployed to overcome the stage of inertia. The programme develops around a circular “gift” system, addressing the twofold issue of both housing and inactivity: Refugees receive affordable living spaces from the city’s available housing stock and in return, they work for the public benefit, supporting the needs of the local community and participating in citizen-led activities that improve quality of life in Athenian neighborhoods.
Beneficiaries receive on-the-job training supervised by the University of Athens, which includes language learning, psychosocial support, “street law” knowledge and other basic social and soft skills. These skills are tailored to the beneficiaries’ needs and are offered in an integrated way, during which other parallel activities are also gradually introduced.
The modality of exchange is developed around the incentives given both to tax-paying proprietors of currently empty spaces as well as to the beneficiaries through their integrated inclusion in the city.
- Municipality of Athens
- Athens Development and Destination Management Agency S.A
- National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
- Catholic Relief Services - United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Greek Branch
- International Rescue Committee (IRC Hellas)
“Curing the Limbo” is an inclusive integration initiative to help refugees and the underprivileged to move from apathy to motivation, create strong bonds with the local communities, acquire new skills, solve local problems together with active citizens, improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods and build self-confidence and self-respect, qualities essential for their development as responsible people and citizens in society.
At the end of the three-year period, programme beneficiaries will be given the possibility to afford housing, access to a network of active and engaged local people, and even the possibility to move on with some form of employment related to their newly acquired skills, with the support of professionals. 375 people are expected to be housed through75 affordable housing units and more than 200 people will attend Greek language courses and ICT courses. It is however expected that many more people will benefit from the programme’s cyclical exchange rationale. Seed funding and community work will help the programme beneficiaries interact with over 100 local stakeholders and citizens' led initiatives, leaving an undeniable impact on the city.
October 2018: Inauguration of the Limbo Exit Lab including the recruitment and training of the Limbo Lab staff and trainers
December 2018: Development of the “Options’ Menu”. This includes language and ICT training, psycho-social and “street law” support, assessment of affordable housing and publication of users’ guide, networking and matchmaking guide with local active citizen groups
February 2019: Beneficiaries access the Limbo Exit Lab. A flexible menu of services classes start. The Housing Facilitation Unit is up and running.
September 2019: Beneficiaries are connected to active community groups in a wide range of activities
December 2019: Beneficiaries enter 75 Housing Affordable Units
February 2020: Beneficiaries receive support to seek employment
“’Curing the limbo’ is a unique opportunity to connect the refugee population to the active citizens of Athens, in a cyclical exchange system that will also address pressing and recurring city needs. UIA financing also gives our city the chance to test an innovative model of social exchange, which will create powerful ties between citizens that wouldn't otherwise interact. It is an investment in our human capital that builds upon the recognition of bottom-up approaches in resolving city challenges and, ultimately, enhancing social cohesion”