Since the start of the armed conflict in the territory of Ukraine in February 2022, thousands of refugees entered Greece seeking residency and civil protection. According to statistical data of the Ministry of Citizen Protection in May, the number of Ukrainian refugees in Greece was 27 809 in total, among them 7 266 children. This number is continuously rising as the armed conflict continues.

In this context, the Greek Government has initiated pioneering and continuous actions to support the equal integration of Ukrainian refugees into society and their cultural adaptation.

Education action plan

In March 2022, the Greek Minister of Education, Niki Kerameus, initiated the establishment of a European Task Force with the aim of establishing access to knowledge, communication and education for Ukrainian pupils and students.

As a result of this initiative, a new digital platform is under way with two main functions:

  • to register the requests from the Ukrainian education community, documenting its needs for equipment, training materials and technical assistance;
  • to set up a mechanism that addresses the educational needs of Ukrainian refugees, in cooperation with the Member States, business sectors, civil society and organisations, as well as international organisations with similar experience and know-how.

Alongside these initiatives, the Greek Ministry of Education has been promoting equal education and the integration of all children and Ukrainian citizens without discrimination. The inclusion and diversity objectives are strengthened through measures such as the provision of ‘reception classes’ and ‘reception structures’ that support the living conditions and social integration of Ukrainian refugees. Cooperation with UNICEF was also intensified to support refugee students’ socio-emotional needs with the help of psychologists and social workers at UNICEF Creative Activity Centres.

The following initiatives under the auspices of the education ministry are also worth mentioning:

  • diverse supporting actions of the Institute of Educational Policy (IEP) that support the Greek educational community and assist teachers’ work in relation to the war in Ukraine, for example through in-class workshops and educational activities;
  • development of bilingual (Greek and Ukrainian) handbooks with information on how to register in the Greek education system and the protocols for the prevention and treatment of coronavirus. Other useful manuals also available online include:
  • provision of an intensive Greek language learning programme in the framework of the integration of Ukrainian students into reception classes and Greek language classes. More specifically, Ukrainian students with little or no knowledge of Greek should attend Greek language courses for 15 hours/week in reception classes. For the remaining hours, Ukrainian students shall be integrated in ‘regular Greek classes’ to attend courses in which language communication is not the primary vehicle for understanding, such as physical education, music, informatics, foreign languages, etc.;
  • continuation of existing teacher training programmes, adding extra modules on intercultural education to support teachers working with children of refugee/migrant background. A multilingual support guide for teachers was developed as a result: Okay in Ukrainian and Russian: a Guide to educational integration for the first weeks in the Greek school for refugee students from Ukraine;
  • provision of training courses for teachers and students by psychologists and social workers from the Interdisciplinary Evaluation, Counselling and Support Centres (KEDASY) of the education ministry, for the support of refugee students in school units;
  • collaboration of UNICEF with the IEP to develop a training guide and two 2-hour training seminars for teachers who welcome refugee students from Ukraine, e.g. with activity proposals, common phrases in Ukrainian and other actions that can help sociocultural adaptation;
  • cooperation of UNICEF and METAdrasi (a non-governmental organisation) for the provision of telephone and face-to-face interpretation in Ukrainian, so that language does not constitute an obstacle to students’ school enrolment and attendance;
  • immediate actions for the repatriation of seconded Greek teachers serving in Ukraine, who will support the above mechanism for Ukrainian refugees’ educational needs.

Regarding cultural adaptation, the Ministry of Migration also developed online multilingual tools (in Greek, Ukrainian and English) to facilitate the entrance of Ukrainian refugees in Greece, their first accommodation, their integration into school, to address mental health issues, and support unaccompanied children. The online services include information on provision of Temporary Protection, and on material facilities and hospitality.

As regards the integration into the labour market, the Ministries of Labour, Agriculture and Tourism undertook the responsibility of recording the needs of the Greek labour market for seasonal or permanent staff, not covered by the domestic workforce. The agricultural sector, manufacturing, tourism, catering and technology are the sectors surveyed for open positions. The outcome of this initiative has been a registry with open job positions and employment opportunities for displaced Ukrainians, available online.

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Please cite this news item as: ReferNet Greece; Cedefop (2022). Greece: initiatives for the integration of Ukrainian refugees into education and the labour market. National news on VET