18October2017

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION IN SPECIAL CONSULTATIVE STATUS WITH THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

Greek Crisis Means Disaster for Syrian Refugees

DSC00867NOTE: Every Greek Member of the EU and the Council of Europe, as well as the Greek Foreign Minister and a number of other politicians have received this WCA Press Release. This Monday the WCA will send them an open letter, asking the Greeke state officials and government for specific support and cooperation on the underreported issue of Aramean (Syriac) Christan refugees in need of assistance in Greece.

Impoverished Greece is facing a Refugee Crisis. Not only is it confronting the worst economic crisis of modern times, but its own refugee problem is now impacting innocent Syrian refugees scrambling across its borders in droves.

The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) [“WCA”], a United Nations NGO, has been working closely with refugees in Greece. Some 300 Aramean Christian families have escaped across the borders from Turkey into Greece. More cross the borders daily. Their stories are horrific and innocent refugees are now at the mercy of human traffickers as they try anything possible to get out of war-ravaged Syria.

Greece has always had a refugee problem and its government has been heavily criticized in the past by the UNHCR and Human Rights Watch. But these new developments in Greece are yet to receive public attention.

The WCA has met with Aramean (Syriac) Christian refugees in Athens, all of whom had crossed the Turkish border into Greece. While tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the war-torn country, the situation with minorities has not yet been analysed or well documented. The WCA has sought to fill the gap, as it met with Christian minorities who have escaped hell in Syria.

The borders between Syria and Turkey are controlled largely by members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). While the borders are meant to be closed to all refugees, the WCA has reported that Christians are not permitted to enter Turkey because, as one FSA Commander put it, “You are with Assad. You can stay here and be killed with him.” This mistaken charge is often thrown at Christians in Syria even though the great majority of them have maintained they do not wish to join the war.

Many Aramean Christians have sold their properties and paid human traffickers to get them out of Syria through different borders. Some have gone through Jordan and Lebanon but all those interviewed in Greece came through the Turkish borders.

The key for Syrian Christians is to get into a European country. Many of them have relatives in countries like Germany, Sweden, Holland and Belgium and they are desperate to leave Greece after their terrifying journey to get to the country in the first place.

The Greek police have arrested each of the refugees who entered their country. Most of them have been released into the public, but the WCA has documented proof that more than ten (10) Aramean Christians remain in jail. It is not clear why they are in detention and what the police will do with them.

In Greece, Aramean members of the ancient Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch have faced many hardships. Many of them have been jailed several times for no reason or while they wait for their refugee papers to be redrafted. They live in terrible conditions and they are running out of money as food, drink and shelter is so expensive. One of the young Aramean Christians was recently beaten up on the street by suspected militants from what is believed to members of the right wing political party, Golden Dawn. He had all his money taken from him and is now in a desperate situation.

One father has become so desperate to get his children out of Greece, he asked a human trafficker to dress his 18 year old daughter in complete Islamic dress and fly her out of Greece in disguise. Other refugees state that Greece cannot take care of them and they must immediately find a way out. Human traffickers ask for approximately €4,000 for an adult and €2,000 for a child. Either way, these are amounts that most of the Aramean refugees cannot afford.

The WCA is delighted to report that the Church of Greece just agreed to provide some food baskets to the refugees. While this is appreciated, the Aramean Christian refugees urgently need more support. They need for the Christian Arameans to be released from jail. They need some form of assistance with food, water and shelter. They need to be protected from right wing thugs and militants. They need legal assistance and close monitoring.

The WCA is also calling on immediate international action. Greece cannot handle the Refugee situation for obvious reasons. There is no question that humanitarian assistance is needed quickly. Not just for the refugee camps, but also to assist those seeking refuge in large cities across Europe with no help. The WCA also calls on the governments of the EU Member States to open its borders when it comes to refugees. Instead of Arameans ending up in the arms of human traffickers, the WCA asks European nations to work together to protect legitimate refugees who wish to enter into other EU countries.

The WCA also calls on the EU to agree a Resolution to work together across borders for the benefit of the refugees, especially vulnerable minority groups like the Christians who are more susceptible to harm and retribution in the newly more militarized Syria.

See enclosed for the official press release.

For further information please contact Mr. Daniel Gabriel, the WCA’s Human Rights and UN NGO director, at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

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