What is AVRR (Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration)?
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has a program called “The implementation of Assisted Voluntary Return including reintegration measures and operation of Open Centre in the Prefecture of Attika for applicants of voluntary return” (AVRR/OCAVRR) that can help people return from Greece to a safe country. The program provides help with travel from Greece and reintegrating into your country of origin.
What is the difference between voluntary return and forced return/deportation?
Voluntary Return is when a person decides, voluntarily, to return to their country of origin or to migrate to a third country.
Forced Return (deportation) is when a person, after being notified that they are under a legal obligation to leave a host country, is forcedly conducted to his or her country of origin by the national legal authority. This might happen if one’s application for asylum was rejected or if an asylum seeker was only entitled to temporary protection and was given a time limit for leaving the county. Find more here.
Where can you find information on assisted voluntary return (AVRR)?
The International Organization for Migration implements the assisted voluntary returns program (AVRR), which includes reintegration measures and support for migrants. Find the contact information and operational hours on the Refugee.Info Service Map.
How can IOM help me?
- Information and individual return counselling.
- Assistance with the issuance of travel documents.
- Provision of travel ticket.
- Pre-departure information and assistance.
- Airport assistance in Greece, in transit and upon arrival, if needed.
- Transportation by plane to your home country, as well as onward transportation within the country, if needed.
- One-time cash assistance to you and each of the family members travelling with you.
- In-kind reintegration assistance based on eligibility criteria.
What is OCAVRR?
OCAVRR is an Open Centre for migrants registered for assisted voluntary return and reintegration. It is near the centre of Athens to provides shelter to migrants in Greece who have registered with IOM Greece’s AVRR project and who have no place to stay until their departure.
How to apply?
To apply for AVRR, approach IOM officers at your location or contact IOM. You can also ask the European Asylum Support Office, the Greek Asylum Service, the Reception and Identification Service, or local NGOs for help. After you fill out an application, IOM officials will guide you through all the next steps.
Who can apply?
You can apply for assisted voluntary return if:
- Your legal stay in Greece has expired.
- You no longer want to stay in Greece.
- Your request for asylum has been rejected.
- You have voluntarily withdrawn your asylum application.
In addition, IOM officials can accept your application for AVRR only if:
- IOM considers your country to be safe.
- You can be returned to an area with no war.
- You will be able to get medical assistance in your country if you need it.
Members of vulnerable groups get priority for this program. These are:
- single-parent families
- pregnant women
- migrants with health needs
- elderly migrants
- destitute migrants
You cannot apply for AVRR if:
- You have not yet voluntarily withdrawn your asylum application.
- You have submitted a second instance appeal of your asylum rejection to the Greek Appeals Authority. The reason is that a key legal argument for a second instance appeal is that your country of origin is not a safe place for you to return.
- IOM does not consider your country safe.
Note that Voluntary returns to Albania and Northern Macedonia are not implemented.
How long it takes?
IOM aims to process applications as quickly as possible. However, the application processing time varies depending on the country of destination, available documents, beneficiaries’ particular cases and needs and other factors. Please note that the processing time for medical issues may take longer.
What does the program offer?
IOM offers assistance both in Greece and when you return to your country.
- If you don't have a passport, IOM will issue travel documents for you and your family.
- At the airport, they will help you with check-in and passport control.
- When boarding, IOM will give you and each member of your family €500 to cover immediate expenses you may have when you arrive in your home country.
- Sometimes, people can get additional financial aid to meet basic needs.
- Once you have returned to your country, IOM can help you fund training courses or studies, repairs for your house, or new business activities.
What happens at a return counselling session?
At a return counselling session, refugees interested in assisted voluntary return can discuss their personal situation to learn about individual support and available options. Return counsellors provide information about the financial and organizational support options for departure and possible reintegration. Moreover, information on the measures and restrictions related to COVID-19 have been imposed by the Greek health authorities and the countries of origin and are shared with the migrants. When a decision to return voluntarily is made, the application must be completed on-site with the return counsellor.
Return counselling is individual, non-binding and unbiased. It does not oblige you to leave Greece and does not affect your asylum procedure.
With what documents can assisted voluntary return be carried out?
You can travel with your valid passport, or IOM can assist you with issuing a laissez-passer. The availability of your original documents (passport, identity card and birth certificate) or a copy of them is essential. It can accelerate the return procedure, depending on the rules and regulations of the country of destination. This matter has to be cleared with IOM.
Departure: Can the date of departure be freely selected by the applicant?
IOM does organise a flight according to the preferences of the applicant. However, the departure date depends on the existing flight connections, available aeroplane seats, and the date travel documents are issued and expire.
What countries does IOM consider non-safe, and thus the program is not implemented?
Currently, IOM Greece does not implement returns to Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Sudan.
I am under 18 and in Greece without my family. Can I go back to my home country?
You can apply for the AVRR if you no longer want to stay in Greece. IOM officers need to get permission from your parents or other legal guardians in your home country in order for the completion of the return process. If they do not give permission for you to return, IOM cannot include you in the program.
Is it possible to use voluntary return assistance to migrate to another EU Member State?
No, this is not possible.
Is it possible to use AVRR assistance more than once?
No, this is not possible. AVRR assistance can be used only once. If you have already used it, you cannot use AVRR assistance from Greece or any other county implementing AVRR programs.
Is there financial assistance provided?
IOM provides a one-time cash grant to the returnee and each family member travelling with them.
What is reintegration assistance? Can all returnees be benefited from it?
Depending on specific eligibility criteria, a returnee might benefit from in-kind assistance in their home country. This may include small business set-up, education, temporary accommodation, vocational training, and material and medical assistance. Not all returnees can benefit from the reintegration assistance—only those who meet the specific eligibility criteria.