Greece celebrates International Migrants Day

Series of events held in the Greek capital Athens

18 December, 13:49

    (ANSAmed) - ATHENS, 18 DEC - Greece, the country within the EU which has arguably been most affected by the ongoing migrant crisis in the region, is celebrating International Migrants Day with a series of events, speeches and exhibitions on Tuesday.

    Among the highlights is a special event called "Dreams do not have a homeland", organised by Greece's Ministry of Immigration Policy and the Special Secretariat for Communication Management of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information.

    The Minister of Immigration Policy, Dimitris Vitsas, who has come under constant criticism from Human Rights groups as well as local governments and communities on the Aegean islands for the ongoing situation, will be a keynote speaker.

    The secretary general at the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, Maria Giannakaki, said: "Immigration is a phenomenon inherent in humankind in its story. We aim for Immigration with dignity and respect for Human Rights." The event, which will also be attended by UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece Phillip Leklerk, features representatives of collectives and immigrant organizations living in Greece, as well as migrant children attending Greek schools submitting their personal narratives.

    According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), there are nearly 60,000 refugees and migrants living in Greece, and although the flows of people have slowed in recent weeks due to the cold winter months, the country still faces a huge problem.

    The asylum seekers in Greece mainly hail from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan Iraq and Iran, but as well as from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Africa.

    The sheer volume of people has created a huge strain for the local communities, especially in the North Eastern Aegean Islands of Lesvos, Chios and Samos.

    THE STATE IS FAILING - KKE Greece's communist party KKE used the occasion to release a strongly-worded statement, criticising the government for its handling of the refugee crisis, and accusing them of failing to protect their rights to work and live in the country.

    "The SYRIZA - ANEL government, which supposedly rides itself on humanitarian by dealing with the immigration issue, is failing in that role. It maintains and increases discrimination against economic immigrants and immigrant children, even though they live and work for many years in Greece or have been born here," said KKE.

    The statement continued: "The state has not protected migrants from fascist and racist attacks, as various incidents point have shown. It continues the policy of encroachment, the shame of the cramped hot spots on the islands, the camps scattered all over the country, the miserable ping pong at the expense of unaccompanied minors and workers from one NGO to the other." "We do not wish to share words of 'consolation' or shallow acts of alleged charity to immigrants. What we want is to call on trade unions and mass organizations to integrate immigrants into their ranks and support their demands. We express solidarity and support for refugees and immigrants and we call on them to fight with their Greek colleagues to abolish all anti-labor memorandum laws, create collective agreements, and campaign for increases in wages, free health, education, sport and culture." TRANSFERS FROM ISLANDS CONTINUING The UN's Migration Agency (IMO) earlier this month called on Greece to set up more shelters and reception facilities for migrants and refugees that are unaccompanied minors as winter sets in across the country.

    The Greek government recently received criticism from human rights groups and NGOs after it was revealed by local NGO ARSIS (Association for the Social Support of Youth) that underage migrants were being housed in Greek police cells due to a lack of space in migrant camps in Northern Greece.

    And although the Greek authorities have stepped up their efforts in transfering such "vulnerable groups" from the islands to the mainland, the living conditions for thousands of minors continues to be grim due to the overcrowding at all camps.

    Under an EU-funded project, over 1,000 children are now being accommodated in 13 hotels - which are operating as temporary accommodation in northern and central Greece - after having left protective custody or reception and identification centres located on the islands and the Greek mainland.

    In November, over 600 asylum seekers were moved from refugee camps on Samos, Lesvos, Chios and Kos to the mainland as part of Greece's Migration Policy Ministry's ongoing operations to try and ease the burden on the packed island facilities.

    Already so far in 2018, according to official figures, more than 16,000 refugees and migrants that are considered "vulnerable" - including unaccompanied minors, single-parent families, the disabled and people with mental health problems - have been included in the transfers.(ANSAmed).

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