Key Points of the Minister for Migration Policy Dimitris Vitsas Speech at the 69th session of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland (3 October 2018)

The Minister for Migration Policy Dimitris Vitsas addressed the 69th session of the Executive Committee of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva on 3rd of October 2018.  In his speech, he mentioned that Greece has been at the forefront of the 2015 and onwards refugee crisis and until now, the Geneva Convention and its Protocol guide Greece’s efforts to provide international protection to those entitled to it. 

About the EU-Turkey Statement of March 2016, he stated that despite its considerable decrease, the migratory influx has never really ceased. Since the beginning of 2018, flows have increased and only during the past four months, over 17,400 new arrivals have been registered. He also highlighted the need for the full and sustainable implementation of the EU – Turkey Statement with the ultimate goal to bring flows to a halt.

After praising Greece’s close cooperation with UNHCR and the European Union, he referred to the difficult conditions in certain Eastern Aegean islands due to increased migrant-refugee influx along with the Government efforts towards decongesting the islands. “We continue to transfer people from the islands to the mainland, creating more vacancies for their reception,” the minister said, adding that “the implementation of new asylum legislation has already yielded results; procedures have accelerated, always with respect to International and European Law”.

“It is evident that a new resettlement programme with a participation of all EU member states is urgently needed. At the same time, it is imperative to find collective solutions, within the European Union, based on the principles of solidarity and responsibility sharing”. He also expressed the hope that the Global Compact on Refugees promoted by UNHCR constitutes a solid foundation for the participation of the international community in the aim of helping and protecting refugees, creating thus the requirements for a Global Resettlement Programme.

“Greece has proven that it has fully complied with its international obligations concerning refugee protection and stresses to all stakeholders that no country alone can face such challenges that have global or regional character, demanding fair responsibility sharing“, said Mr. Vitsas.

The Minister for Migration Policy also referred to the National Integration Strategy, which establishes co-ordination of all state actors and local government organizations in order to facilitate the integration of refugees into Greek society. In addition to Greek language learning programmes and the development of vocational skills necessary for the labour market, Vitsas also talked about the free access of refugee children into the Greek educational system.