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Greece's Intervention to the Briefing by the IOM Director General Mr William Lacy Swing on the migration flows towards Europe through the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans- (Geneva,17 September)

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Mr Director General,

Thank you for your briefing. We would like with this opportunity to commend the presence and the importance of the IOM worldwide. We also would like to thank you for the efforts in highlighting the international character and the human dimension of the immigration/refugee problem.

In the case of our country, our cooperation with IOM starts since the 1950s and has especially intensified in the recent years, given the tremendous increase of inflows and we would like to thank you for the cooperation of your staff with our local and state authorities namely with the assisted voluntary return and repatriation program in the past, the cultural mediation efforts and especially highlight the recent training of medical staff undertaken by IOM officers in host facilities such as the newly built open hospitality center in Elaionas, near Athens , where in only one month of operation, more than 5.000 refugees have been hosted, with a vast majority of families with children. I would like to emphasize that the operation of this facility is the result of the excellent cooperation between state and local authorities, international organizations, volunteers and civil society and it would never have been successful without the solidarity shown by hundreds of people every day. Therefore the help of international organizations on the ground in a cooperative spirit is crucial.

It is obvious that the creation of more facilities such as this is what I needed. And the relevant  presidency conclusions on the 14th September provide that Greece should be supported in its efforts to strengthen the reception capacities, the asylum system and the management of the external borders in full respect of human rights and safety requirements.

There is no need to speak at length on the fact that  Greece has been facing unprecedented migratory flows on its Eastern  border while it is bound by significant financial constraints due to the economic crisis.  Since the beginning of this year, inflows have exceeded 260.000 persons.

The IOM recent press releases bear testimony to the fact that Greece has become the largest arrival point and that while the Hellenic Coast Guard has been sparing no effort to save human life at sea. The UNHCR has also said yesterday that more than 4000 refugees and migrants continue to arrive on a daily basis to Greece. Nonetheless, a significant effort has been made in order to stabilize the situation with the help of our EU Partners. Our interim government has announced emergency measures, among which the creation of a coordination center for the management of refugee flows in the port of Piraeus, which will be operational very shortly, following disbursement of relevant emergency EU funds.

Mr Swing, you yourself have said that “The paradox of migration is how to balance national sovereignty and individual rights”. That is why Greece believes that we need a holistic approach to address the root causes of the migratory flows, in close cooperation with countries of origin and transit. The IOM’s presence in those countries and relevant expertise will prove very precious for us.

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