Queen Rania visits refugee camp in Greece and calls for a collective global response to the refugee crisis

April 25, 2016

(Office of Her Majesty – Press Department – Lesvos, Greece) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah called for a collective global response to the growing refugee crisis, explaining that its impact is much greater than any one country or any one region’s capacity to cope.

The Queen made these statements during a visit to the Kara Tepe refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday in her capacity as advocate for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where she also met with several refugees.

“This is an exceptional crisis and it requires an exceptional response. It requires a response that is collective and that is value-based, a response that is built on burden sharing not burden shifting,” she said.

Queen Rania explained that responsibility for the refugee crisis cannot be defined by geography and cannot be contained in Europe or the Middle East. 

“Refugees are not numbers. They are human beings like you and I, except they have seen unspeakable horror and have experienced unthinkable tragedy and hardship. They risked everything, their families, their possessions just to make it to safety,” she said.

“We need to bring humanity and compassion back into the narrative, because this crisis is about people not borders and barriers. It’s about human dignity not deals,” she added.

In reference to stories she heard from the refugees she said: “it’s very difficult for me to decide which story is more harrowing than the other because each one seems to be an incredible tragedy.”

“These people have gone from suffering to suffering, and the one theme that I keep hearing time and time again is that if they had a choice, they would be back in their homes,” she added.

The Queen also highlighted the urgent need to find legal and safe alternatives for refugees, who have fled their war-ravaged countries and are struggling to seek asylum. “We need to find legal alternatives and effective pathways to safety, and also look for more sustainable long term solutions to this crisis.”

Queen Rania said that many humanitarian are concerned about the ramifications of the EU-Turkey deal. She warned that desperate refugees will not stop trying to reach safety and security in Europe, adding that new and dangerous smuggler routes were already expanding.

The Queen said that donor support must be increased for over-stretched humanitarian organizations like the IRC and countless others “that have become the only lifeline for refugees at a time of limited asylum opportunities.”

She also thanked the Greek government and people, who have shown “remarkable empathy and kindness towards refugees” despite six years of economic hardship.

While at the camp, Mayor of Lesbos, Spyros Galinos, briefed the Queen about the plight of thousands of refugees on the island, which is considered the gateway to mainland Europe.  

Accompanying Her Majesty on the visit, IRC Country Director Mr. Panos Navrozidis said: “For refugees, Her Majesty Queen Rania’s visit today reassures them that they are not alone. There are many people across the world who care deeply for their plight and are working to ensure a better, safer future for them and for their families.”

Mr. Navrozidis briefed Queen Rania on the IRC’s efforts in providing legal counsel to the refugees about their rights. He also showed her IRC’s water, sanitation, and hygiene services inside the camp, which is currently hosting over 950 people. 

Queen Rania met with two Syrian families and one Afghan family, who described the stress they are under while anxiously waiting for news about the fate of their asylum applications. Some said they sold all their belongings in order to flee Daesh-controlled territory in Syria.

She also met with a group of Syrian women, who told her about the fear and grief they have experienced. Two of the women the Queen met lost their husbands, who drowned when their boat capsized while trying to get to Lesbos from Turkey last month.

The Queen also joined refugee and local children participating in a mural painting activity.

On March 23, Her Majesty visited IRC’s operations in the northern Jordanian town of Al Ramtha, where the organization provides health and protection services, including psychological support for Syrian women traumatized by war.

The IRC began its operations in Lesbos in July 2015, delivering clean water and sanitation in several refugee transit sites, and providing refugees with much-needed information about the registration process. The organization also continues to provide specialized services to the most vulnerable refugees, including people with limited mobility and children separated from their families.

While Lesbos is only a transit point on the route to mainland Europe, organizations like the IRC have been instrumental in providing humanitarian aid to refugees during their journey. The IRC has also provided health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries across the world, with special programs focusing on the needs of women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in the United States.