Messages from government, parties and other entities highlighted Monday’s celebration of International Migrants Day (December 18), established by the United Nations in 2000.
In its message for the day, the ministry of Immigration Policy said that it is “systematically working towards the smooth integration of migrants, assuming a series of initiatives like the electronic residence permit card and the upgrading of education offered both for migrant children and for the improvement of Greek of their parents.” It said the Greek government is committed to protecting the human rights and freedoms of all peoples living in its territories and “under difficult circumstances seeks prosperity for all, without discrimination and with respect to special needs of people forced to abandon their homes.”
The stance and contribution of the Greek people and the state in handling the refugee and migrant crisis “proves that Greece is a land of solidarity and humanitarianism,” said Fotini Pantiora, special secretary for crisis communications management at the Digital Policy, Telecoms and Information ministry. “Greece had the courage to face crises without putting up fences and divisions, and despite its own problems remains an open and tolerant society,” she added.
Majority ruling coalition party SYRIZA criticised the world community for lack of solidarity, “leaving Greece and Italy in the front lines of receiving (migrant flows)” and noted that “unlike some governments, the solidarity of our fellow-citizens is a shining example for the world.”
The party expressed its support for basic rights for all migrants, “escaping war and poverty in Europe, where the spectre of racism and xenophobia is widespread.”
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed support for refugees and economic migrants in Greece as well as for Greek migrants living and working abroad, and called them to join its forces to defend their rights. It also criticized the EU for its migration policy and the Greek government for “not safeguarding the life of refugees in the deplorable hotspots on the islands” and for delaying the education of migrant children.
In its own message, the Greek Migrants Forum called on the government to assume its own responsibilities and “help, collaborate and recognize the massive need there is for equality, equal treatment before the law, and dignity in the life of everyone, Greeks, migrants and refugees.” It also posted a video on the International Migrants Day on its site and held activities for migrants at the Eleonas housing center in Athens that included art and craft workshops and a temporary library, with the help of other organizations and the Athens City council for migrant integration.
The day was also commemorated by the European Commission and UNICEF, which called on all countries to improve their practices and guarantee children’s wellness and security.
According to the UN agency for children, about 50 million children globally are on the move at any time, while 28 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to wars and conflicts. In 2017, almost 15,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Italy by sea and over 400 children have died in 2017 trying to cross the Mediterranean, while thousands have been abused, taken advantage of, enslaved and detained as they crossed Libya.
“Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay. The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and that the human rights of all concerned are properly protected, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.