Seminar Thessaloniki 22nd and 23rd May 2013

On behalf of the EEA-Grants, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), together with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Athens, arranged a two-day seminar regarding Reception Centers for Asylum seekers in Norway and Greece.

Here you will find a short summary, the invitation, list of participants with contact information, pictures and contributions given during the seminar.


The Greeks and the Norwegians – cooperation beyond the vacational relationship

During two days in beautiful Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, Greeks and Norwegians were gathered to discuss reception of migrants and asylum seekers. The background for the seminar was that the experiences made by Norwegian actors may have relevance for Greek actors.

One of the goals in the National Greek Action plan on Migration Management is to establish more reception centers throughout the country. The experience in Norway is that an active participation by local administration, and close cooperation between the representatives from the state, the local authorities and the reception organization can break down some of the prejudices and lead to less tension in civil society. The Norwegian government addresses continuously the challenges related to the establishment of new reception centers in local communities. UDI has been systematically informing the relevant local communities at an early stage- prior to the establishment of new reception centers.

The seminar was successful in gathering the main actors in reception center management, both from Greece and from Norway. Even if Greece and Norway have a very different starting point and therefore also choose different solutions, it became obvious that we face many similar challenges when establishing reception facilities.

The first day started with opening from H.E. Sjur Larsen, Ambassador of Norway, Mr. Ioannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki, and Mr. Simos Daniilidis, Mayor of Sykies.

Ms. Marit Sjaastad from the Directorate of Immigration outlined the reception center system of Norway and the importance of good cooperation between state, local authorities and the centers’ management. Mr. Petter Stranger and Mr. Jonny Karoliussen, Norwegian local administration officials, followed up with presentations of best practices from two districts in Norway.

The seminar turned out to be the perfect occasion for Greek actors to raise a wide range of questions and discuss them with their Norwegian counterparts. 

In the afternoon Ms. Lambrini Zoi, Director in Ministry of Labour, contributed on the theme “Establishing reception centers: the Greek and Norwegian way”. Input and best practices were then given by the representatives of two Norwegian Reception Operators; Mr. Per Winter Castello and Mr. Jan Olav Fjelldal.

Day two started with a thorough presentation of the newly established First Reception Center in Evros by the Director of the First Reception Service Mr. Panagiotis Nikas. The presentation was followed by a fruitful discussion.                     

IOM, represented by Head of Office Mr. Daniel Esdras, and UNHCR, represented by Ms. Kalliopi Stefaniaki, gave the participants insight in their work related to migrants and reception centers.

Finally the participants were given briefings from representatives from three of the local authorities attending the seminar; Deputy Mayor of Patras Mrs Maria Andrikopoulou, Mayor of Orestiada Mr. Dimitrios Mouzas and Head of Social Services in Sykies Municipality Ms. Maro Vassara.

Concluding remarks

The seminar gathered 50 Greeks and Norwegians, all relevant actors in the field of establishing reception facilities. In addition to being an arena for the exchange of information and best practices, the seminar facilitated a possible network between the actors and paved the ground for possible twinning projects/activities.

The seminar was also an unique arena for intern discussions among the Greek actors in the reception field. The need for more interaction in this field was expressed.

The Directorate of Immigration will try to find ways and financial means to contribute to the follow-up of the seminar within 2013.

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