Γιατροί του Κόσμου Ελλάδας-A Step Forward - New phase of operation
Press Release - 26.06.2024

A Step Forward - New phase of operation

A shelter for women who do not choose the road, but are forced to follow it

Inauguration by Médecins du Monde, on International Refugee Day, of the new phase of the Open Accommodation Center “A Step Forward” for women seeking international protection


The opportunity for a meaningful step forward for women seeking international protection in Greece is given by Médecins du Monde, who chose World Refugee Day to launch the new phase of the Open Accommodation Center “A Step Forward”. By putting in place a practical alternative of safe housing and a protective environment for a population in high vulnerability, Médecins du Monde is opening the doors of the shelter and providing support to women – along with their children – who have experienced or are de facto facing a high risk of exploitation, abuse and marginalization to ensure their protection and strengthen their social inclusion process.

Through the “A Step Forward” project, which is implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, the General Secretariat for Vulnerable Citizens and Institutional Protection and the Swiss Immigration Secretariat, Médecins du Monde provides, on a daily basis, housing and protection services, including the provision of basic goods, food and personal hygiene. The host women and children simultaneously receive a range of support services aimed at empowerment and a path to autonomy. 

The holistic approach with which the Médecins du Monde team works seeks to give the beneficiaries the opportunity to build their new life in dignity. In particular, following good practices for reception and integration into Greek society, the Center provides psychosocial assistance and counselling, psychological support and psychoeducation, language learning, social orientation and creative employment, as well as legal information and counselling. The fact that the facility is located within the urban fabric of the capital facilitates networking and interconnection with the local community, social services and schools, on the basis of the New National Strategy for Integration, which includes familiarisation with the European way of life, democratic institutions and parliamentary constitution, gender equality and the prevention of all forms of violence and human trafficking.

The kick-off for the reopening of the Center was given in the premises of the housing facility, at a working meeting with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum, Sofia Voultepsi and the Secretary General for Vulnerable Citizens and Institutional Protection, Hercules Moskov, Marc Bruchez, Head of the Swiss Mission in Greece, Tobias Schläpfer, Head of the Contribution Office, Greece – Cyprus, Ioanna Kavvadia on behalf of the Deputy Mayor of Social Solidarity and Equality of the Municipality of Athens, Maria Stratigaki, and the President of Médecins du Monde, Dr. Chariklia Tziouvaras.

The event was introduced by Mrs. Tziouvaras, who focused on the importance of the synergies of civil society actors with public administration and external international and European aid, while she thanked the Ministry for the opportunity given to Médecins du Monde, through the Swiss-Greek Cooperation Programme 2023-2026 for the reduction of economic and social inequalities, to provide appropriate care and protection. Explaining, furthermore, the increased social vulnerability of the beneficiary population due to gender and, very often, lone parenthood, the President of Médecins du Monde stated: “A Step Forward Open Accommodation Center is a practical policy proposal for the existence and uninterrupted operation of safe and affordable protection and housing structures with a view to a dignified future for these women who war, violence and persecution have forced them to seek a new home.”

Taking the floor, Sofia Voultepsi said: “Greece, a State of Law that protects the victims of wars and removes weapons from criminal networks, continues its fight for the weak and social cohesion. Women and children are always the easy targets. It is an important humanitarian and social mission to save the vulnerable from organised crime and radicalisation. We are very happy for such a fruitful cooperation with the Swiss government and the Swiss Embassy for supporting and funding our efforts, writing new pages in protecting the most vulnerable from the vulnerable, following the mandate of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and refuting in practice those who engage in slander against our country”.

«Στη Γενική Γραμματεία Ευάλωτων Πολιτών και Θεσμικής Προστασίας η εξατομικευμένη διαχείριση υποθέσεων και η προστασία αποτελούν σταθερά θεμελιώδεις στόχους μας», σημείωσε ο κ. Μοσκώφ και πρόσθεσε: «Με διευρυμένες πλέον αρμοδιότητες για όλα τα θέματα που αφορούν συνολικά τους ευάλωτους πολίτες τρίτων χωρών ή ανιθαγενείς, συνεχίζουμε επενδύοντας στην εξωστρέφεια και την ανάπτυξη συνεργασιών με ισχυρό κοινωνικό αντίκτυπο. Οι Γιατροί του Κόσμου και το έργο “A Step Forward” είναι ένας πολύτιμος σύμμαχος στην προσπάθειά μας να υποστηρίξουμε γυναίκες με ευαλωτότητα. Η συνεργασία αποτελεί το κλειδί για τη δημιουργία ενός αποτελεσματικού πλέγματος προστασίας απέναντι στην ευαλωτότητα ώστε αυτή να μην αποτελέσει εμπόδιο στη διαμόρφωση μιας βιώσιμης ενταξιακής προοπτικής».

“At the General Secretariat for Vulnerable Citizens and Institutional Protection, personalised case management and protection are consistently our fundamental objectives,” Mr Moskov noted and added: “With now expanded responsibilities for all issues concerning vulnerable third-country nationals or stateless persons as a whole, we continue investing in outreach and developing partnerships with a strong social impact. Médecins du Monde and the A Step Forward project are a valuable ally in our efforts to support women with vulnerabilities. Collaboration is key to creating an effective safety net against vulnerability so that it does not become a barrier to a sustainable inclusion perspective.”

“Today, World Refugee Day, we are pleased to announce the launch of the “A Step Forward” project, funded by the Second Swiss Contribution. This initiative aims to provide essential support and protection to vulnerable women and their children. This project marks the start of an important partnership that seeks to provide much needed assistance to those in need. The inaugural meeting lays the foundations for an ongoing effort to empower and protect these communities”, noted Mr. Schläpfer on behalf of the Embassy of Switzerland in Greece.

“The Open Accommodation Center “A Step Forward” for women asylum seekers will fill an important gap in the social infrastructure in Athens. I congratulate Médecins du Monde for this innovative action and the long-lasting care they provide to vulnerable people in our city”, said the Athens Municipality spokesperson.

It should be noted that the “A Step Forward” structure is networked with all the public and social services of Athens. Based on the coverage of the needs of the beneficiaries, collaborations with the National Centre for Social Solidarity, the competent Public Prosecution Authorities, the Reception and Solidarity Centre of the Municipality of Athens, as well as the Social Solidarity Directorate of the Municipality of Athens are activated.

The project “A Step Forward” Open Accommodation Center for vulnerable women asylum seekers and their children is implemented through the cooperation between the Special Secretariat for Migration of Switzerland, the Ministry of Migration and Asylum of Greece and Médecins du Monde, in the framework of the “Swiss-Greek Cooperation Programme 2023-2026” for the reduction of economic and social inequalities.