Greek Volunteers share UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award 2016

September 6, 2016

Today, 6 September, UNHCR announced that the Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi of “PIKPA village” on Lesvos are the joint winners of  the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award. Read why:..

Konstantinos Mitragas on behalf of the 2000 strong Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) and Efi Latsoudi from “PIKPA village”, a community-run accommodation area on the Greek island of Lesvos were both chosen for their tireless volunteer work during the 2015 refugee crisis on Greece’s shores: the HRT for their round-the-clock efforts to save refugees and migrants in distress from the sea, and Efi Latsoudi for her compassion and care for the most vulnerable refugees and migrants arriving on the island of Lesvos.

[Over 850,000 people arrived in Greece by sea in 2015 with more than 500,000 of these arriving on the island of Lesvos. In October 2015, arrivals peaked at more than 10,000 per day, as conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq continued to uproot people from their homes. Over 270 people died in Greek waters over the year.]

About their nomination, UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said: “Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and persecution last year made the desperate bid to reach Europe in search of safety, many risking their lives in unseaworthy boats and dinghies, in a journey which all too often proved insurmountable. Both the Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi refused to stand by as they witnessed the dramatic humanitarian situation unfolding on their shores, and are fully deserving of the Nansen Refugee Award. Their efforts characterize the massive public response to the refugee and migrant emergency in Greece and across Europe, in which thousands of people stood in solidarity with those forced to flee, and the humanity and generosity of communities around the world who open their hearts and homes to refugees.”

Konstantinos Mitragas, a sea captain and The Hellenic Rescue Team’s (HRT) secretary-general, is a Thessaloniki businessman by trade, he said: “2015 was the most difficult year that we have ever faced as a rescue team.  We lived absolute horror.  There were many casualties, among them many children, which is the thing that affects you most. I believe it’s something in your heart that moves you and makes you volunteer and I can say our volunteers are heroes.  No matter where someone comes from, or their religion, as a rescue organization we have to be there.  We have to be united in periods of crisis.

Efi Latsoudi, a trained psychologist and human rights activist, is a  driving force behind PIKPA village, she said: “PIKPA started as a dream – a place where refugees would receive fair and decent treatment.  Our idea of PIKPA village is a community of people; volunteers and refugees are part of this community…For me supporting refugees is not something exceptional, it’s something that we have to do.  I think the reason that Greek and international volunteers come to the island every day has to do with solidarity. I think this is something that comes in our blood.  There is a face of Europe that is very human and it’s amazing.  It can do miracles and this is a miracle.”

The announcement of this year’s Nansen Refugee Award winners comes at a time when UNHCR is urging the world’s governments to work together and find joint solutions for the current global refugee crisis through its #WithRefugees petition, which currently has over 700,000 signatures.

The 2016 ceremony will be held on 3 October in Geneva, Switzerland.

For earlier posts on the Nansen Medal:

Source: UNHCR – Greek Volunteers share UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: