ALT. MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION TASIA CHRISTODOULOPOULOU ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY – JUNE 20
This year’s refugee day is marked by a dramatic situation: the great number of refugees fleeing to our country and Europe because of the destruction of Syria and the prosecutions that threaten the lives and freedom of millions. The Geneva Convention of 1951 on the Status of Refugees remains until today the cornerstone for the legal protection of refugees. Greece and the entire European continent have to face up to their commitment to respect the Convention and to protect thousands of people.
Solidarity towards the refugee is not a question of volunteerism or ideological preference. It is a moral and legal obligation. It concerns our country, but also all EU countries in terms of solidarity and shared responsibility for the protection of refugees. It should be noted that the vast majority of refugees worldwide reside in Asia and Africa. Such are the millions of refugees living in neighboring Middle Eastern countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq). Only a small percentage of refugees, less than 15%, seek protection in the European continent.
Greece is at the crossroads of these flows from the Middle East, Asia and, secondarily, North Africa, flows that grow at an unprecedented rate, as Syria is sinking into chaos. Our country is at its limit. Greece is experiencing a crisis within the crisis. However, we do everything that is humanly possible to ensure due protection and decent living conditions for refugee populations. The situation we face however is adversary: our country is going through its own economic adventure, one without precedent during peacetime.
The European Union, in turn, hesitates to make decisions based on humanism and solidarity, choosing turn a blind eye to the problem and sweep it under the carpet. In this critical juncture we ask our European partners to share this responsibility, through relocation measures and emergency assistance, in order for us to be able to meet our obligation for refugee protection as Greece, as Europe. We also ask the Greek people to continue demonstrating their solidarity with the refugee, a person sacred to our traditions, as the experience of becoming a refugee is an big part of our people’s history.