UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt visits Greece, urges expansion of legal pathways for vulnerable refugees
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt concluded her mission to Greece today meeting volunteers, NGOs and local authorities engaged in emergency response efforts on the island of Lesvos, and speaking with refugee families.
The meetings followed the Special Envoy's visit to Athens yesterday, during which she met volunteers assisting refugees and asylum seekers at Piraeus Port, visited a temporary accommodation site at Eleonas, and also met with refugees and asylum seekers.
In Athens the Special Envoy also held talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. She reiterated UNHCR's offer of support to increase protection and assistance to refugees, to support reception, and to support access to asylum and the EU relocation programme.
They also discussed the high-level meeting hosted by UNHCR in Geneva on 30th March focused on the expansion of legal pathways for Syrian refugees, in the light of the urgent need to enable the most vulnerable refugees to reach safety, to reduce the need for these people to put themselves in the hands of smugglers.
On Lesvos, Ms Jolie Pitt also visited Moria registration centre where 2,800 refugees and asylum seekers are temporarily housed, to hear directly from families about their situation and their experiences. 95% of the refugees in Moria are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. She urged refugees to ensure they register with the Greek authorities and work through the formal asylum system.
Speaking at the end of her visit, Ms Jolie Pitt said: "I look forward to UNHCR being able to enhance its support to the Greek authorities in coordinating the humanitarian response, and together with partners, support efforts of the authorities to ensure effective registration as well as access to asylum and relocation, with particular attention to those who are the most vulnerable."
"I want to thank the Greek people for their understanding and generosity in the face of difficult circumstances, and the efforts of the volunteers and local organizations I met during my visit. They and many others are working around the clock to receive and care for refugees arriving in Greece. This needs to be matched by an international response equal to the scale of the global refugee crisis, which includes ending the conflict in Syria but must go far beyond that."