- The Permanent Mission
- Greece in the UN-Geneva
Greece's Intervention to the Operational Briefing of the UNHCR on the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans - (Geneva,Thursday 3 September)
" As UNHCR has publicly stated, Greece has been facing unprecedented migratory flows on our Eastern border, consisting
primarily of refugees. Since the beginning of this year, inflows reached 240,888 persons, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. This 8-month figure need to be compared with 77.163 in 2014 and 43.002 in 2013. The intensity of flows has significantly increased in August. On some islands, the inflows, over the last year, have increased by 1000%. Our first reception services and infrastructure are overstretched and under extreme pressure, while the Hellenic Coast Guard has been sparing no effort to save human life at sea.
The scale of the phenomenon is such that halting the flows to our maritime borders with Turkey is nearly impossible. This major challenge comes in pair with the economic constraints that Greece has been facing for the past 5-6 years.
Over the last years, we have made significant progress in the areas of first reception and asylum,implementing the National Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management. Contrary to the situation in our maritime borders, we have managed to control the flows to our land borders with Turkey, despite the afore mentioned constraints,
The care taker government yesterday announced emergency measures regarding:
the improvement, funding and staffing of existing first reception and medical assistance infrastructures at island reception centers and as well as for the acceleration of the registration and identification process for those who requiring international protection arriving in the country.
the creation of a coordination center for the management of refugee flows, with the participation of officers of the Interior, Public Administration and Health Ministries as well as members of the police and coast guard, while the armed forces would also contribute.
The activation of procedures for the immediate use of existing European solidarity programs and funds, in order to tackle the massive migrants and refugees’influx.
Furthermore, as the world media are marred by images that allow none of us to sleep with a clean conscience, we would like to finish by stressing the human dimension behind the numbers. W e would like to also mention, on our side, some stories from the side of the local communities in Greece.
One exceptional such case is that of Papa-Stratis, an Orthodox priest in the island of Lesvos, to whom the UNHCR also pays tribute from its Greek website. Papa-Stratis with the help of young local people, had been providing refugees with clothing, food, water and a place to sleep over the last few years, despite suffering from a chronic respiratory problem that required him to be connected to an oxygen bottle.
We would also like to quote the words of Mr Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, during his field visit to Greece last April that "the continuous and committed hospitality of the Greek population must be underscored, and I have been informed that on the islands, citizens go out of their way to try to save migrants from drowning and provide them with basic necessities, although they themselves have been severely affected by the continued economic crisis."
We appeal to all members of the International Organizations as well as NGOs to keep highlighting those stories and reaffirm Greece's readiness to deepen its cooperation with UNHCR in order to tackle this international challenge of our times."