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Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations arrow Newsarrow Panel discussion on “Promoting Diversity and Combating Xenophobia” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Greece, Mexico and Portugal) - 14.7.2016. Intervention by Deputy Permanent Representative Nafsika Vraila

Panel discussion on “Promoting Diversity and Combating Xenophobia” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Greece, Mexico and Portugal) - 14.7.2016. Intervention by Deputy Permanent Representative Nafsika Vraila

Monday, 18 July 2016



Thank you Ambassador Sandoval,

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for giving up your lunch time in order to approach -along with Mexico, Portugal, my own country Greece, as well as with our distinguished panel –one more human aspect of the biggest refugee and displacement crisis after World War II and in particular focus on the promotion of diversity and human contact as a tool of combat against xenophobia and prejudice towards refugees and migrants.

A few months ago, we cohosted with Cyprus a similar side event with the screening of a documentary called “Waves of Hope”, once again filmed in Lesvos which by now has become known internationally not only as a land of poets and vacation, but as the “Promised Land” for people fleeing from war and terror. In April we chose to give the floor to those who are seldom or never consulted in order to highlight the extreme importance and role of volunteers, the solidarity of the local communities, the work of the humanitarian agencies of the UN system, the NGO’S, all of them being first responders in dealing with the real tsunami who arrived, in the summer of 2015 on the shores of all Aegean Islands, first entry point to Europe. 900.000 refugees and migrants in less than a year transited through Greece and today after the closing of borders, 60.000 people are to be found on Greek soil awaiting resettlement and other solutions that have been elaborated on a European level. The tackling of this crisis became a challenge of historic proportions not only for the government and people of Greece, already confronted with a serious economic crisis, but also for Europe.

Today the film we are about to watch -and as you know an image is worth a thousand words –and the issue of racism which we are about to tackle is considered by us as an effort to pose one more chip in the enormous mosaic that the refugee/migration issue comprises as a challenge to the international community. Now that some, unfortunately not enough, of these people in dire need have been resettled successfully, in countries all over the world, we need to reflect on the problem of discrimination and xenophobic rhetoric or behaviors which have once again shown their ugly face in the receiving societies. The security aspect, as well as certain social aspects (like a wavering labor market in some receiving countries) have been exploited by political parties or individuals who are promoting restrictive policies.

These evolving developments have been and will be in the future the subject of many other thematic side events and of course of several high level international events and initiatives first and foremost the upcoming UN High Level Summit of September. All these events are building up the momentum of the indispensable coordinated collective engagement of shared responsibility to come up with lasting solutions to this complex and difficult issue by placing human lives and dignity at the forefront. As we are preparing for September’s Summit, let us remember this culture of shared responsibility and let us promote global solutions.

Being an EU frontline and most affected country, Greece has mobilized substantial human and financial resources to deal with the refugee/migration crisis. However, it is still glaringly obvious that additional European and international aid and expertise is indispensable to effectively help us carry out such a huge task. Allow me to briefly present to you the basic principles which guide our actions in Greece:

- We are working for a global holistic political response to address the root causes of the refugee/migrant crisis that put millions on the move.

- We continue to do the utmost to save human lives and rescue refugees fleeing from war while they struggle on a perilous journey in the Aegean Sea. We respect our primary obligations to safeguard all human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons residing or even sojourning on Greek territory by combating contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance with a whole battery of legal and other measures and by developing a comprehensive national strategy and consolidating an adequate legislative framework, like the 2014 and 2015 anti-racism legislations.  We are developing a comprehensive and humane system of migration management. This will diminish the recourse to migrant smuggling and trafficking networks. The key words are identification, registration, proper processing of all legitimate asylum seekers according to EU and International law on a case by case basis, relocation and resettlement.

- We are providing reliable information to refugees and migrants as to their rights and obligations in order for them not to fall victim to misinformation and exploitation by traffickers and others.

Mr. President, at this point I am proud to inform this audience that racist attacks have not increased in Greece during this period. Not a single massive protest against refugees and migrants has been registered, even if we are fully aware of the danger of rising racism and xenophobia in the near future as is the case in many countries.

So, let us turn our attention to the screen and to the hope which arises for the human race when everyday people choose to interact with those in need only to find out how similar they are.

Thank you again for your presence and your patience.

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