Conclusion of the thematic Seminar of the Special Secretariat for Crisis Management Communication – Migration Policy Minister Briefing – Visit at the Refugee Accommodation Structure in Schisto/ 5-6 April 2019

The thematic seminar titled “The role of communication in crisis management- Planning, Coordination, cooperation”, which was co- organized by the Special Secretariat for Crisis Management Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media and the Club of Venice, was successfully concluded on the 6th of April, 2019.
In his opening speech, Deputy Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, Lefteris Kretsos, referring to the refugee-migration issue pointed out that: “The vast majority of Greek society stood by the persecuted refugees and migrants with solidarity and humanity. The baker in Kos, who gave out bread to refugees and was honored by the European Union, the grandmothers of Sykamnia in Lesvos, who gave food to young refugee children, are the enduring symbols of this humanitarian stance. The Greek Government will continue supporting integration policies for refugees and migrants and, especially, the participation of refugee children in education, the access of all refugees and migrants to the structures of the National Health System, because the Government firmly believes that, by doing that, social cohesion is reinforced and phenomena of racism and xenophobia are isolated”.
Migration Policy Minister, Dimitris Vitsas, briefed high ranking communication officials from EU countries, international and other European organizations who participated in the seminar, on the situation on the refugee-migration issue and on the policy and position of the Greek Government, pointing out the need to find a European solution to the issue, with joint responsibility of all the Member States of the EU.
In his intervention, Mr. Vitsas stated that 25,000 out of the total number of refugees and migrants live in apartments, within the framework of the ESTIA Programme, 20,000 reside in open Accommodation Structures on the mainland, while another 7,000 reside in approximately 60 hotels as beneficiaries of an IOM, EU and Migration Policy Ministry programme. In the six Reception and Identification Centers that operate today on 5 Aegean islands and in the Evros area, 11,300 asylum seekers reside today compared with 18,300 in last September. This decrease shows the laborious efforts to ease congestion, undertaken by the Migration Policy Ministry, which, during 2018, resulted in the transfer of a total of 29,000 refugees and migrants from the islands to the mainland. The Minister also announced that the following week he would be travelling to Samos, in charge of a large delegation aiming at the easing of congestion in the Reception and Identification Centre of the island.
As Mr. Vitsas said, during the first months of 2019, the flows of refugees and migrants are stable, compared to last year, when there was a 10% increase on the islands and a 280% increase in the Evros area compared to 2017.
“Greece and the Greek islands are no warehouses of souls”, the Minister emphatically underlined, while asking EU Member-States to share responsibility in the management of the issue, the revision of the Dublin Regulation, the common return system, but at the same time, the establishment of common criteria for granted refugee status in all EU Member States.
Mr. Vitsas stressed out the need to have a collective European solution to the refugee-migration issue, which should be clearly based on the EU fundamental principles.
Finally, the Minister referred to the situation in Diavata, Thessaloniki during the past few days, saying that it was the result of “fake news” excessively circulated, about an alleged opening of the borders to Albania and N. Macedonia on the 5th of April. As he said, out of approximately 73,000 refugees and migrants residing in Greece, about 1,500 took part in this mobilisation, while, in the area surrounding the Accommodation Centre of Diavata, around 600-650 people were gathered.
“The Greek Government will treasure the rights of the asylum seekers, such as having a job and the right of their children to go to school. However, they have the obligation, under international treaties, to fully respect the laws of the host country”, the Minister highlighted.
On Saturday morning the members of the Club of Venice visited the asylum seekers Accommodation Structure in Schisto, where they were informed in detail by its Commander, G. Kraloglou, on the living conditions and the services provided to the refugees living there.
As the Special Secretary for Crisis Management Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, Fotini Pantiora, stated, the Accommodation Structure in Schisto is one of the 26 Open Accommodation Structures for Asylum seekers that exist and operate on the mainland, with satisfactory living conditions for those residing there. “The Migration Policy Ministry, along with all the other Ministries that share responsibilities make constant efforts to further improve the conditions in all structures in the country, while, at the same time, they have implemented social integration policies for refugees and migrants”.