Almost one year since the signature of a Memorandum of Cooperation between UNHCR and the Municipality of Ioannina, UNHCR praised the achievements of the community in ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers residing in the Ioannina area and the wider Epirus Region are effectively included in host communities.
Mireille Girard, the UNHCR Representative, today met Mr Moses Elisaf, the Mayor of Ioannina, and welcomed the municipality’s steps in updating its Municipal Operations Plan, the establishment and operation of a Council for the Integration of Migrants and Refugees (SEMP), and the opening, with private funding, of a one-stop-shop for asylum seekers and refugees (pending the approval of the establishment of a Migrants Integration Centre-KEM).
UNHCR commended the proactive engagement of all municipal services and agencies in identifying solutions and appropriate responses for the refugees and asylum seekers living in the area, as already exists for other residents. These efforts put into life the Government and European policy directions.
Girard handed-over a commemorative plaque acknowledging the successful implementation of ESTIA accommodation project in Ioannina in collaboration with UNHCR in previous years and the on-going close cooperation in efforts to promote inclusion and integration.
“The concrete achievements of Ioannina municipality enable refugees to contribute to the economy and society hosting them, and helps to maintain the economic and cultural exchange in the area,” says Mireille Girard, UNHCR Representative. “Asylum seekers and refugees bring with them their own skills and abilities and a desire to contribute to their host communities.”
“I would like to express my gratitude to UNHCR for the constructive cooperation we have. The Municipality of Ioannina remains committed to ensuring refugees and asylum seekers have access to services and are able to contribute to the economy and society hosting them as foreseen in the law”, says Moses Elisaf, Ioannina Mayor.
“I believe we have made a major step towards this direction with the establishment and operation of a SEMP, the activation of “Academia” intercultural centre and the decision to create another intercultural centre, “Kandila”. Of course, there are still many challenges ahead. One of the most urgent issues is to ensure the transportation of asylum-seeking and refugee children from the sites hosting them to their school. Now it is the time to act if we want to be ready for the new school year. I remain optimistic that with the support of all actors involved, we will be able to find the most efficient solutions”, he adds.