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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-05-31

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Marie-Pierre Poirier explains to ANA-MPA what UNICEF plans for refugees in Greece
  • [02] Couples from all over the world to get married at the Catholic Church of Mytilene
  • [03] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Lesvos; 52,674 identified migrants and refugees in Greece on Tuesday
  • [04] Skiathos island to offer floating berths for large cruiseships

  • [01] Marie-Pierre Poirier explains to ANA-MPA what UNICEF plans for refugees in Greece

    UNICEF's Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe Marie-Pierre Poirier was recently in Athens and the Aegean island of Lesvos for four days, accompanied by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and singer Nana Mouskouri, to assess what Greece is doing for roughly 22,000 refugee and migrant children trapped in the country.

    The scope of Poirier's visit was to organize along with the Greek authorities a short-term and long-term plan to provide refugee children with access to better health services and education.

    Talking to the ANA-MPA, Poirier said that UNICEF was collaborating with the Migration Policy Ministry and the Social Solidarity Ministry to provide protection to unaccompanied children and teens, as well as the health ministry on an immunisation programme. Poirier emphasised the issue of vaccinations and UNICEF's concern that a large number of children has not had a normal life due to the population movements, not going to school and not getting vaccines. "These children have a sort of life in parentheses," she noted, adding that UNICEF will also give guidelines for protecting breastfeeding.

    "It is very important for me that the Greek side is already thinking very strategically about both sides of the approach; the immediate humanitarian action and the medium-term work to prepare those that will remain for a smooth transition into Greek society," Poirier commented.

    With respect to unaccompanied minors, she noted that UNICEF and various Greek ministries were discussing optimal solutions in line with international standards. "We must properly identify them, record them and help Greek institutions concerned with establishing their status how to examine what is best for each child. We would like to help with developing qualitative and efficient standards," Poirier said.

    She said that new standards and ideas would be drawn up, in collaboration with social workers and public prosecutors, including the care of the children in families or family-like homes, outside of institutions. Another of the issues raised by UNICEF on an international level was that of reuniting the families of these children and broadening the definition of family, which is currently restricted to the father or mother.

    "However, in many cultures, families include other relatives. We must, therefore, see family reunification in the context of a broader definition of family," she clarified.

    Asked about Greece's response to the refugee crisis, Poirier admitted there were "shortcomings and problems," such as reception centres that did not provide the necessary services and incomplete implementation of the law.

    With regard to their collaboration with the education ministry, Poirier explained that the first part of the plan concerned an immediate educational action at accommodation centres, starting with those that have the greatest number of children, such as that in Skaramangas. Poirier added that the ministry was starting to build up records of how many children were in each camp, as well as their ages and educational needs.

    The first stage of the plan will span educational facilities for very young children, organising child-friendly spaces and recreational activities for them, and then to give emphasis to teens, who need to learn a new set of "life skills" - such as cultural values, relations between the sexes and other issues of daily life in Greece - and join vocational training programmes. For young children, in particular, she noted that it was "very important to recreate a sense of normality... so they can again be children instead of refugees."

    Poirier said that a learning package will be set up, starting with the younger age groups, that is in the children's native language and in English, so children later relocated to other European countries can be integrated into the system there. This will involve training for teachers - the third part of the short-term educational plan – supplying them with material collected by UNICEF from the countries of origin and destination of the refugees, Poirier said.

    This ultimately aimed to create the conditions for the second stage of the programme, which was the integration of the children. Poirier estimated that this will begin in the autumn, by which time "we will have a clearer picture about who will stay and who will leave for other countries." She said that the integration of the children would take place by placing them in Greek schools.

    She related an incident that occurred when she was visiting the refugees staying in Piraeus port, when a 13-year-old boy had come up to her and showed her the multiplication exercises he was doing. "I use my time to practice because I don't want to forget, all these months that I don't go to school. I may have lost my friends and everything in my homeland but I don't want to lose my future as well," the boy had said to her.

    Commenting on the EU-Turkey agreement, Poirier said its "strategic intention to bring order" was a good idea and noted that there must be a European approach to mass flows of people. She stressed, however, that emergencies should not lead to the non-fulfilment of humanitarian standards.

    "The European Union was created on the basis of common values, not just a market," she said, such as those of human rights and solidarity. When the agreement was interpreted as leading to the return of people to Turkey, UNICEF had therefore warned that human rights must be respected and that to hold a person for being a refugee could not be justified, since escaping war and insecurity was not a crime. She also noted that such distinctions should not apply to children.

    "Yes, there are cases where unaccompanied children, chiefly on the islands, are kept in closed centres. Our approach, however, is to come and propose what must be done to improve the situation," she said. She noted, however, that there was recognition on the government's side that things were not as they should be so she felt reassured.

    "Greece did not say to me that all is well, it said that this is what we can do for now, help us do better," she added, while expressing admiration for the "immense generosity and solidarity that Greece, as a country, has shown refugees" in spite of its own economic problems.

    "A child is always a child, whether we are talking about refugees or migrants. Every child has a right to an individualised process to determine his or her status, which will find what is best for [the child]," Poirier said.

    [02] Couples from all over the world to get married at the Catholic Church of Mytilene

    The relics of St.Valentine that are kept at the Cathedral of Mytilene attract couples from all over the world that decide to get married on the island.

    Weddings at the city's Cathedral have not been carried out for an long time provided that there is not a Catholic community on the island. However, the restoration of the Cathedral-monument and the discovery of the St. Valentine's holy relics as well as the re-establishment of a small community of Catholic Christians on the island opened a new tourism potential and perpective: wedding tourism.

    Marek Gitrowski and Fiona Jeganaphan, a distinguished biochemist, decided to get married on Lesvos. As they stated, the refugees problem and the negative promotion of the island did not not affect their decision.

    The couple lives in England but they have friends and relatives across the world that arrived on Lesvos to attend the matrimonial ceremony.

    The Princess of Thailand and a large number of couples from all over the world have announced that they will get married at the Catholic Cathedral of Lesvos in 2016.

    [03] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Lesvos; 52,674 identified migrants and refugees in Greece on Tuesday

    A delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, headed by its president Pedro Agramunt, arrived on Lesvos on Tuesday.

    The European deputies will tour the refugee camps in Moria and Kara Tepe and will meet with non-governmental organizations operating on the island while late in the afternoon they hold a meeting with Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos.

    52,674 identified refugees and migrants were on the Greek territory on Tuesday including 15 persons that arrived on the Greek islands in the last 24 hours.

    According to the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body's figures, 27,212 of the refugees are in northern Greece, 14,510 are hosted in the region of Attica, 8,439 on the Greek islands and 2,513 are hosted in different areas in central and southern Greece.

    [04] Skiathos island to offer floating berths for large cruiseships

    The municipality of Skiathos is planning a series of smart and innovative solutions that will promote the island's tourist development.

    Among these solutions is the constuction of floating berths for large cruiseships that will approach the island in order to relief the congestion that prevails in the port during the high season. It is a modern, innovative and low cost solution that will not disturb the environment or damage Skiathos' natural beauty.

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