Pilot Road Safety Training for refugees kicks off in Athens
 Pilot Road Safety Training for refugees kicks off in Athens

This weekend, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in cooperation with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), kicked off a pilot programme on road safety for refugees in Greece. The first seminar was launched in cooperation with the Road Safety Institute Panos Mylonas, and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum.

The pilot programme will prepare 30 refugees, including 18 men and 12 women from 13 countries, such as Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Cameroon and Iran, to sit the national driving license exam in Greece. The programme has attracted huge interest from the refugee community, with some 400 people applying to participate.

The first seminar on Saturday 9 July was attended by Deputy Minister for Migration and Asylum, Mrs. Sofia Voultepsi, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Mr. Adriano Silvestri, President of RSI Panos Mylonas Mrs. Vassiliki Danelli-Mylona and CRS Acting Country Representative Katerina Raftopoulou.

Mrs. Vassiliki Danelli-Mylona welcomed the refugee participants as well as the Deputy Minister, emphasizing the importance of road safety in Greece.
“It is an honor and a great pleasure for us to closely cooperate with UNHCR and the Ministry of Migration & Asylum on this programme. It is important for every refugee who comes to a country to be able to understand the traffic culture of the specific place, to ensure their safety on the road and their smoother social integration. I know that many of you risked your lives to get here to Greece. We don’t want you to be injured on the roads here” she said.

Deputy Minister Voultepsi welcomed the participants at the event. “We support this important integration initiative by UNHCR. Our common goal is the best possible self-reliance of refugees, and the ability to drive can open new paths for their freedom of movement and contributes significantly to their professional integration”, said Mrs. Voultepsi.

“It is equally important that 40% of the programme’s participants are refugee women, which I personally welcome as the epitome of integration. Warm congratulations also to UNHCR’s partners, CRS and Panos Mylonas Institute” added the Deputy Minister.

The overall aim, beyond raising awareness on road safety, is to eventually link the participants with jobs related to their newly gained skills, through the ADAMA Integration Center, operated by CRS and Caritas Hellas, with the support of UNHCR, enabling them to become self-reliant, while contributing to the local economy.

“Access to employment is a fundamental aspect of integration. With significant labour needs in Greece, the integration and employment of refugees should be prioritized, both from a humanitarian perspective, but also economically for Greece” added Mr. Adriano Silvestri, UNHCR Assistant Representative in Greece.

“Refugees face tremendous challenges in obtaining something as simple as a driving license. We hope that this pilot will be just the beginning of such programmes that can make a significant difference in refugees’ social and economic inclusion” added Rania Dimitriou, Livelihoods and Integration Advisor of CRS.

The road safety programme is developed in close consultation with the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum, within the context of Greece’s National Integration Strategy and in line with the objectives of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Ministry and UNHCR in October 2021.

“I wanted to use this opportunity as its important for me to have a driving license. Movement is not always easy, but you must go to work. To enter the job market, for some jobs you need a driving license, and I’ve missed several opportunities because of this. This is an opportunity given to us to integrate”, said Silvia, a 30-year-old refugee from Cameroon participating in the programme.

Local integration ultimately allows refugees to fully exercise their rights and their responsibilities as integrated members of their local communities, and to live in dignity while rebuilding their lives.

photos:© UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis
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