Second day of travel to Lesbos: Melgosa conveyed to the Greek authorities the need for humanitarian corridors in Europe to ensure safe migration

2023 August 31
  • The Minister for Equality, Justice and Social Policies met with the mayor of Mitilene, on Lesbos, Stratis Kytelis; she has subsequently held different meetings with the director of the Kara Tepe II refugee camp and with representatives of UNHCR
  • Nerea Melgosa was accompanied by the Director of Migration and Asylum, Xabier Legarreta, in addition to the founder of Zaporeak, Peio García Amiano, and the coordinator of the Basque NGO, Yakub Shabani

The Basque Minister for Equality, Justice and Social Policies, Nerea Melgosa, and the Director for Migration and Asylum, Xabier Legarreta, have been on the Greek island of Lesbos since yesterday, where they have travelled to learn first-hand about the work that the Basque NGO Zaporeak carries out in caring for refugees and asylum seekers in the Kara Tepe II camp. The intention of the Basque Government is to support Zaporeak's presence and reinforce the importance of its work on the island before the Greek authorities.

The Minister began the day with a quick visit to the kitchens of Zaporeak, where she was able to greet the volunteers and workers who began the day. She then went to the City Hall, where she and Legarreta were welcomed by the mayor of Mytilene, Stratis Kytelis.

"We thanked him for favouring the presence of organisations such as Zaporeak and the many others that work on the island, because it is necessary to humanise treatment of and offer the best possible conditions to these people who, in most cases, have lost everything," said Nerea Melgosa.

The Minister and the Director of Migration and Asylum explained to the Greek President the Basque reception model, based on the individualised and close attention of people. In this way, they have commented, "we favour the integration of migrants into Basque society"; a society, they commented, that is focused on actions of solidarity and commitment.

"We have delivered a document with the main lines of the Basque Social Pact, and we have stressed that it is about helping the migrant collective to build a new life project with the tools we can offer them," added Legarreta.

Stratis Kytelis, mayor of Mytilene, expressed his concern about the current situation. “There are more than 3,200 people in the Kara Tepe II refugee camp, a number that exceeds our capabilities. We are saturated,” he said. He also explained that they are currently building a new refugee camp with a capacity for 3,000 people that will be ready by the end of the year.

The mayor has appealed to Europe to carry out an "equitable distribution" of responsibility for refugees. “Turkey must comply with the 2006 agreement, by which anyone who arrives irregularly on the Greek islands has to be returned to Turkey,” he said.

At the meeting, Minister Melgosa highlighted the presence and importance of Zaporeak in Lesbos. “Zaporeak's work transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, serving as a palpable reminder of our shared responsibility to care for and support our fellow human beings in times of need. Their dedication to ensuring that people and migrants receive nutritious food and emotional support is critical. ”

Melgosa also transferred the Basque Government's Share proposal, "a pioneering mechanism in Europe to share responsibly and, in a systematic way, share the duty of solidarity based on European values and ideals, taking into account the capacities of each territory".

After this meeting, Nerea Melgosa and Xabier Legarreta went to the Kara Tepe II refugee camp, where they joined the delegation of Peio García Amiano, founder of Zaporeak, and Yakub Shabani, coordinator of the Basque NGO on the Greek island. In Kara Tepe they were welcomed by the general director of the camp, Dimitrios Kantemnidis, who explained the operation of the centre.


Meeting with UNHCR

The morning continued with another meeting in the camp itself, this time with UNHCR representation on the island of Lesbos. Danilo Valdiviezo, Associate Protection Officer, and Theodoros Alexellis, Assistant Government Liaison Officer, shared their knowledge about the camp and the care provided to refugees with the Basque delegation.

The Basque delegation was able to hold a meeting with a group of Afghan women who have fled the Taliban, who have transferred their double vulnerability due to the fact that they are women: “We are afraid to move freely or go to the bathroom alone at night,” they said.

Counsellor Nerea Melgosa was particularly concerned about the situation of women and their children, and was able to exchange further views with some of the refugee families on Lesbos.

The truth is that the Basque Government and UNHCR collaborate closely, and this has led them, among other actions, to head up a pilot program for the protection of refugee families that has served as a model for all of Europe. This is Community Sponsorship and, currently, the program is in its second edition with reception in the Basque Country (Vitoria, Tolosa, Donostia, Zalla and Bilbao) of six Syrian families. This was also discussed at the meeting.

In the afternoon, the Basque delegation visited some points of interest on the island such as a private beach with concertina wire so that refugees do not enter; the old Moria camp, which burned down in 2020, and the reality of the port of Mytilene with its military and patrol boats.

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