Ioannina Municipality and UNHCR strengthen their cooperation on refugee integration

Signature of the Memorandum at the City Hall of Ioannina city. Chrysa Tatsi, UNHCR office in Ioannina (L), Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Greece (c), Moses Elisaf, Ιoannina Mayor. © UNHCR/Evangelos Papadakis.

Ioannina Municipality (Western Greece) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Greece, signed today a Memorandum of Cooperation to reaffirm and strengthen their cooperation in a common field of action to benefit asylum seekers, refugees and local communities. This cooperation aims to improve access to services and develop strategies and programs for the smooth integration of refugees in the city of Ioannina.

UNHCR has been closely cooperating, since 2016, with Ioannina Municipality, as well as with other municipalities in the region of Epirus, including Zitsa Municipality where Agia Eleni’s open accommodation facility operates. Such cooperation includes  the implementation of the ESTIA programme, the coordination of humanitarian actors operating in the region and the preparation of refugees in their efforts towards self- reliance and local integration.

UNHCR will further enhance its cooperation with the Municipality of Ioannina through the provision of technical advice in the fields of effective inclusion, integration, protection, refugee legislation, non-formal education and communication with communities, as well as through support for coordination purposes, project development and fundraising.

On his part, the Mayor of Ioannina, Mr. Moses Elisaf, thanked UNHCR for their support and stated that “innovative partnerships like the one signed today are of paramount importance, especially nowadays when we are all facing many and complex challenges; these are also challenges commonly faced by refugees, in their search for protection and sustainable solutions.” He also added: “The Municipality of Ioannina has a long history of a fruitful collaboration with UNHCR, which has been recently further strengthened and, as of today, is officially established with the signature of the Memorandum of Cooperation. Based on this, we will seek new ways to resolve issues related to the refugee situation”.

UNHCR’s Representative in Greece, Philippe Leclerc highlighted that “the Municipality of Ioannina sets an example for many other cities in Greece. Refugees hosted in the region are feeling welcomed. Through the Memorandum of Cooperation, we are aiming to strengthen the good practices which are already being implemented”. Furthermore, he reminded that “we are all human beings, equally vulnerable in the face of Covid-19, a pandemic that does not discriminate”.

The Mayor also signed a statement of solidarity for Cities #WithRefugees along with other mayors and local authorities from around the world. Already 246 mayors have signed the statement worldwide, including three from Greece (Athens, Livadia, Symi).