On the second day of an official visit to Greece, Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians visited Adama, an integration centre for refugees and asylum-seekers in Athens, operated by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Caritas Hellas, with support from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The Royal visit highlighted and acknowledged the importance of programmes that practically and efficiently help refugees to access employment opportunities and essential social services, as they strive to integrate in Greek society.
The King and Queen, accompanied by an official delegation, including Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Petra de Sutter, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region Rudi Vernoort and Minister-President of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Pierre-Yves Jeholet, arrived at the Centre in the morning, where they were welcomed by the Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, the Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum, Sophia Voultepsi, and the UNHCR Representative in Greece, Maria Clara Martin. They were briefed about the Greek State’s efforts to facilitate the integration and self-reliance of refugees in the country, as well as about the operation of Adama Centre and how it contributes to achieve this end.
The centre operates in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding on Integration signed between UNHCR and the Ministry for Migration and Asylum, aligning with the priorities of Greece’s National Integration Strategy.
The King and Queen then walked through the premises of Adama, guided by the Head of CRS Programmes Joanna Parsley and Caritas Hellas Director Maria Alverti and discussed with three refugee women from the Democratic Republic of Congo who found jobs with the help of the Adama Centre. The women talked about their journey, the challenges they have faced but also the importance of becoming self-reliant. Helene, an asylum-seeker and trained nurse, was grateful for finding a job in her field, while Nadia and Yvonne work with an NGO providing psychosocial support.
The Royal couple had the opportunity to discuss with three refugee women from DR Congo who found jobs with the help of the Adama Centre. © UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis
The Royal couple met with the staff of Adama Integration Centre. © UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis
The King and Queen walking through the premises of Adama Centre guided by the Head of CRS Programmes Joanna Parsley. © UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis
From left: Minister-President of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region Rudi Vernoort, Minister of Migration and Asylum Notis Mitarakis, King Philippe, Queen Mathilde, Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum Sophia Voultepsi, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister Petra de Sutter, UNHCR Representative in Greece Maria Clara Martin, Caritas Hellas Director Maria Alverti, CRS Head of Programmes Joanna Parsley. ©UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis
The UNHCR Representative in Greece Maria Clara Martin thanked Their Majesties and Belgium for the interest and the support to the refugee cause throughout the years: “It was an honour to welcome today Their Majesties the King and Queen of the Belgians to Adama Centre. UNHCR is trying to support refugees early on from their reception and registration to their eventual integration. During the four months of the centre’s operation, 52 refugees have found employment in their field of expertise – which confirms the fact that refugees bring skills and qualifications to contribute to a country. Adama orients them towards sectors of the Greek economy, such as hospitality, agriculture and manufacturing, which can benefit from their potential”, she said.
The Royal couple is on a three-day official visit to Greece at the invitation of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou.