The City of Athens and UNHCR support refugees

The Mayor of Athens, Yiorgos Kaminis, on Wednesday said the Athens Municipality  would rent 200 apartments to refugees, within the framework of a program to be implemented with the support of UNHCR. The rented properties will house 3,000 people within a yer.

Meanwhile United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for global solidarity, during a press conerence with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “We are here to address the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time … This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity. The best way to offer hope to Syrians is by ending the conflict,” the Secretary General said. “But until such talks bear fruit, the Syrian people and the region still face a desperate situation. The world must step up, with concrete actions and pledges. All countries can do more.”

Conference host Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, emphasized that the responsibility for caring for refugees should not be left to Syria’s immediate neighbours alone, but should be more equitably shared. “The magnitude of this particular crisis shows us unmistakably that it cannot be business as usual, leaving the greatest burden to be carried by the countries closest to the conflict,” Grandi told the gathering, also attended by representatives from key refugee-hosting governments.”Offering alternative avenues for the admission of Syrian refugees must become part of the solution, together with investing in helping the countries in the region,” he added.

Among solutions identified to end their plight is resettlement to third countries. Grandi highlighted a programme in which UNHCR worked with Canada to screen, select and prepare more than 26,000 refugees to start a new life in just four months. Grandi said other pathways included more flexible mechanisms for family reunification, including “extended family members, labour mobility schemes, student visas, scholarships, as well as visas for medical reasons.” “Resettlement needs vastly outstrip the places that have been made available so far. Last year, only 12 per cent of the refugees in need of resettlement, who are usually the most vulnerable, were resettled,” Grandi said.

UNHCR estimates that at least 10 per cent of the 4.8 million refugees in countries neighbouring Syria will need resettling or other humanitarian help to safely move elsewhere before the end of 2018. This includes people considered acutely vulnerable, such as survivors of torture, refugees with serious medical conditions or women left alone with several children to care for and without family support.

Ahead of the conference, the Campaign Director of Avaaz, Alice Jay, handed over a petition to Grandi carrying over 1.2 million signatures in support of refugees. The petition, collected since the summer, calls for increased resettlement and reunification of families alongside financial support to countries on the frontline of the crisis, among other things. Avaaz, meaning ‘voice’, is a global citizens’ movement which campaigns in 15 languages on six continents. A selection of photographs and messages of ‘Refugees Welcome’ from 23,000 Avaaz members around the world is being shared on a screen outside the conference hall.

SOURCE: City of Athens / UNHCR