Humanity is central to supporting refugees and vulnerable migrants in Greece

Published: 5 September 2015 0:52 CET

Representatives from the Hellenic Red Cross and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Societies (IFRC) joined the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, and Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos on their visit to Athens and Kos on Friday, 4 September. The visit was part of the Commission's mission to several of the Member States most affected by the arrival of refugees and vulnerable migrants to discuss urgent measures to support them.  

Vice-President Timmermans and Commissioner Avramopoulos – together with the new Alternate Minister of Migration Policy in Greece Loannis Mouzalas – sat down with local and international aid organizations to discuss how they will address the humanitarian needs arising in Greece and Europe.

The President of the Red Cross branch in Kos, Irene Panegiotopoulou, stressed the urgency of the situation before the meeting started.

“I hope we can find a solution to this crisis soon. The Hellenic Red Cross will help as many as we can, but the situation is terrible. Kos is a small community, and I worry that our resources will run out before winter,” said Panegiotopoulou.

Representing the IFRC during the visit, Seija Tyrninoksa, Head of Country Cluster for Western Europe, said: “The migration situation is a global humanitarian crisis and needs an integrated global response. Countries of arrival or transit cannot be expected to respond to this humanitarian crisis alone. The IFRC is scaling up its response to assist those needing urgent help as they move along the Western Balkans route. We expect European governments to scale up their response as well,” said Tyrninoksa.

Vice-President Timmermans asked for continued pressure and help from the international humanitarian community, as he acknowledged that the current support provided by both the government of Greece and the EU is inadequate to meet the enormous needs of the people arriving in Europe, and that it requires corroboration in highlighting the urgency of the issue.

Seija Tyrninoksa was hopeful and reassured after the meeting that steps will be taken by the European Commission and other governmental officials to address the crisis. All participants agreed that it is necessary and a priority to reorganize the reception and registration system in Greece. A quick and humane system will benefit both the refugees and local community on the Greek islands where hundreds of people are arriving every day.

In addition to reorganizing the reception and registration system, and meeting basic needs, awareness-raising activities to provide clear facts and information to both the local community and arriving migrants are also urgently needed to prevent increased violence and chaos.

“I am more hopeful now, especially after the meeting with the Alternate Minister of Migration Policy. Mr Mouzalas was very much engaged with the issue, requesting assistance from international and local aid organizations, and I am certain that we will be able to find a solution together. However, it needs to be done quickly and unlocking the funds to do so is key,” said Tyrninoksa, who together with representatives of other aid organizations, met separately with the Greek interim Minister of Migration following the official meeting with the European Commission.

Angelica Fanaki, Head of International Relations and Communication at the Hellenic Red Cross, urged local communities and authorities to respect the humanitarian mandate of Red Cross staff and volunteers.

“Our focus is to provide assistance to meet the immediate needs of the vulnerable people arriving on our shores. The Hellenic Red Cross has local branches all over Greece and through our staff and volunteers, as well as with the support from our international Red Cross Red Crescent partners, we will be able to help more vulnerable people," said Fanaki. “Addressing the issue with humanity is a solution that will benefit everyone.”


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