UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt on Wednesday visited Greece on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. She met with Prime Minsiter Alexis Tsipras and discussed the current refugee crisis and the situation in Idomeni.
The Special Envoy’s mission concentrated on the humanitarian situation of thousands of refugee families in Greece, most of whom were forced to flee Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Close to 85% of all the refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe, landed in Greece since January 2015. Today, there are over 40,000 people in Greece who have arrived during the past weeks and desperately need protection and humanitarian support.
Jolie Pitt reiterated UNHCR’s support to Greece in the expansion and coordination of protection and assistance to refugees, the strengthening of registration and asylum procedures, the upholding of essential international protection and refugee law standards and the implementation of the EU relocation program.
“I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected,” Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt said.
The visit comes the day after the Special Envoy’s visit to Lebanon, on the 5th anniversary of the Syrian conflict, where she stressed the need for leadership and coordinated international action to address the root causes of the global refugee crisis. It is her first visit to Greece on behalf of UNHCR.
UNHCR is supporting the authorities in Greece who are responsible for the reception, registration and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers arriving on their territory. UNHCR has set up eight field offices with hundreds of staff and significant resources to support shelter, water and sanitation, health and protection services among other priorities. With the build-up of numbers in Greece during the past weeks, however, efforts are not meeting all the needs on the ground and the situation is deteriorating daily.
The Special Envoy’s visit comes on the eve of a critical meeting between European Union Member States and the Government of Turkey that will potentially affect thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. The Special Envoy is also due to be participating at a high-level meeting to explore legal pathways for Syrian refugees, such as resettlement, humanitarian admission programmes, private sponsorships, family reunion, student scholarships and labour mobility schemes, later in the month in Geneva.
PHOTO:© UNHCR/L.Knott [UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt talks with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.]