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 with reintegrating in your country of origin.

Update: Due to COVID-19, applications for AVRR can be processed, but IOM Greece cannot guarantee that the return will take place soon. Many of travel limitations and departure agreements are currently suspended until further notice. IOM will contact applicants once there are updates on each case. If you would like to receive updated travel restrictions information or learn about the status of your case, please contact AVRR officers by using the telephone numbers you will find here, from Monday to Friday, between 08:00 - 16:30.

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 petition 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 in assisted voluntary return (AVRR)

AVRR offices are located in Athens, Corinth, Patra, Ioannina, Thessaloniki, Drama, Kavala, Evros, and on the islands of Crete, Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Kos and Rhodes.

To get more information on or apply for AVRR, approach IOM officers close to your location, or contact IOM without any obligation. If you want to visit IOM premises in Athens, you can also book an appointment online through the Online Scheduling Appointment (OSA) platform. You can also ask the European Asylum Support Office, the Greek Asylum Service, the Reception and Identification Service, or local NGOs and Hellenic authorities for help.

All assistance is free of charge. You can decide, at any time of the procedure, to leave the program.

How can IOM help me?

IOM provides:

  • Information and individual return counseling.
  • Assistance with the issuance of travel documents.
  • Provision of travel ticket.
  • Pre-departure information and assistance.
  • Airport assistance in Greece, as well as in transit and upon arrival, if needed.
  • Transportation by plane to your home country, as well as onwards 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 to the center of Athens to provide shelter to migrants in Greece who have registered with IOM Greece’s AVRR project and who have no place to stay until their departure.

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.

AVRR assistance can also be provided to migrants in situation of vulnerability (victims of trafficking, elderly people, unaccompanied migrant children, migrants with health-related needs, single-parent families etc).

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.

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.

Members of vulnerable groups get priority for this program.

Can I go back to Syria?

No. You can only go to a country that IOM considers safe. Syria is not currently classed as a safe country, so Syrians cannot apply for AVRR to Syria.

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.

What happens at a return counselling session?

At a return counselling session, refugees interested in assisted voluntary return can discuss their personal situation to find out about the individual support and options that are available to them. Return counsellors provide information about the financial and organizational support options for departure and possible reintegration. Moreover, information for the measures and restrictions related to COVID-19 have been imposed by the Greek health authorities as well as the countries of origin, are shared with the migrants. When a decision to return voluntarily is made, the application has to be completed on-site together 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.

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS: With what documents can assisted voluntary return be carried out?

You can travel with your valid passport or IOM can assist you with the issuance of a laissez-passer. The availability of your original documents (passport, identity card and birth certificate) or a copy of them is essential and can accelerate the return procedure, depends 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 as per the preferences of the applicant. However, the actual date of departure depends on the existing flight connections, available airplane seats, and the date that travel documents are issued and expired.

Financial matters: What is the amount of financial assistance provided?

The cash grant is 500 euros for you, and each family member travelling with you. It is given the day of departure, to cover immediate expenses you may have when you arrive in your home country.

Financial matters: What is reintegration assistance? Can all returnees be benefited from it?

Not all of the returnees can be benefited from the reintegration assistance, only those who meet the specific eligibility criteria.

The eligible returnees for the reintegration assistance, besides the 500 euros cash grant, will additionally receive reintegration support of 1.500 euros. The reintegration assistance is offered only in-kind upon your return to your home country. It may include setting up a small business (individually or in partnership), training programmes, temporary accommodation, psychosocial/legal support, medical and material assistance and job placement. Reintegration support is provided in collaboration with IOM Offices in the countries of origin.

Financial matters: Is it possible to use voluntary return assistance to migrate to another EU Member State?

No, this is not possible.

Financial matters: Is it possible to use AVRR assistance more than once?

No, this is not possible. AVRR assistance can be used only once. You cannot use AVRR assistance from Greece or any other county implementing AVRR programs, if you have already used it.

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.

How long it takes

IOM aims at processing applications as quickly as possible. However, the processing time for applications varies depending on the country of destination, available documents, beneficiaries’ special characteristics and needs and other factors, currently related to the context of COVID-19. Please note that the processing time for medical cases may take longer.

What the program offers

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.
  • In some cases, 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.