3 March 2021, OSLO: The International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, jointly welcome the relocation of 35 vulnerable asylum-seekers from Greece to Norway today. This is the first relocation to Norway since the start of the project in April 2020.
The UN Agencies commend Norway’s commitment to the EU-supported relocation programme. Norway is hereby joining a coalition of countries, who have relocated more than 2,900 unaccompanied children, vulnerable asylum-seekers and refugees from Greece.
Nevertheless, reception centers on the Greek islands remain above capacity and refugees and migrants, including children, still face dire conditions. The relocation of vulnerable people from the islands has helped to alleviate hardships. This underlines the continued need for more European solidarity and increased participation in relocation activities.
The asylum-seekers all come from Syria and consist of seven families with a total of 21 children. Before departure from Greece they have been tested for COVID-19 and been in pre-quarantine. They have now been received by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration who will process their claim for international protection.
“We thank the Government of Norway for participating in the relocation initiative and for giving these vulnerable people a chance to start anew. IOM will continue to provide relocation support to Norway, and we stress the importance of caring for the integration of the newcomers into Norwegian society to empower their participation and contributions,” said Fatou Diallo Ndiaye, Chief of IOM’s Mission in Norway.
“Norway is not only providing solutions and an opportunity for vulnerable asylum-seekers to rebuild their lives, but also supporting Greece at a crucial time. The need for solidarity and responsibility-sharing among European countries is still very high,” said Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries.
“We are pleased that progress is finally being made in relocating vulnerable children and families to Norway, but 50 is not enough and UNICEF Norway encourages the Norwegian government to relocate more children. The humanitarian crisis in Greece is not over, and Norway’s contribution to the relocation work cannot stop here,” said Kristin Oudmayer, Director of Advocacy at UNICEF Norway.
For the arriving families, relocation represents a possibility for a fresh start in a safe environment after they were forced to flee from Syria, took on dangerous journeys and then spent months in hard conditions in Greek island reception centers.
Marwan fled Syria in 2019 together with his wife Sharihan and their five children. The family travelled to Greece and spent a difficult year at the Samos Reception and Identification Center before being accepted for relocation to Norway.
“During our difficult journey, my children kept asking me when we will have a safe home and when will they go to school. Now finally, after many years, I have an answer for them. I am sure that I will be able to find a job in Norway and support my family,” said Marwan as he spoke with IOM before the departure from Athens.
The UN Agencies also want to praise the engagement and strong support for relocation by Norwegian cities, municipalities and civil society. They play a vital role in creating welcoming communities, which will now be an important factor in helping these families feel welcome and integrate in Norway.
With today’s relocation, Norway is sending an important signal of solidarity to Greece and other frontline states in Europe. The EU Commission’s proposed Pact on Migration and Asylum now provides an opportunity to move beyond these ad hoc relocations and establish a more predictable and durable framework for European cooperation and international responsibility-sharing.
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About the Relocation Programme:
The Relocation programme is led by the Government of Greece with participating EU member states and is coordinated and funded by the European Commission. IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF fully support all aspects of the relocation process, in close collaboration with key partners such as the European Asylum Support Office.
Find the latest overview of relocation activities here.
Eman Hassan in Oslo, +47 92 05 48 90, [email protected]
Elisabeth Arnsdorf Haslund in Copenhagen, +45 21 42 55 64, [email protected]
Jean-Yves Gallardo in Oslo, +47 992 89 629, [email protected]