Jewish and Muslim aid groups join forces to help refugees in Greece

The partnership will ensure that vulnerable refugees in Greece benefit from legal assistance, strategic litigation, and advocacy to advance refugee rights.

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January 17, 2018 17:40
2 minute read.
Jewish and Muslim aid groups join forces to help refugees in Greece

A Syrian refugee boy stands in front of his family tent at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants next to the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece (REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis. (photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)

Global Jewish nonprofit organization HIAS and Muslim humanitarian aid NGO Islamic Relief USA announced on Wednesday that they have formed a partnership to expand legal services for the most vulnerable refugee populations in Athens and Lesbos.

“In 2015, Greece emerged as the most visible focal point of the largest global refugee crisis since World War II,” the groups said in a press release.

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More than a million migrants from Syria, Iraq and other countries in crisis passed through Greece in 2015 and 2016, with some 60,000 refugees having stayed there.

In 2017, nearly 3,000 migrants arrived in Greece each month, according to the groups.

“Islamic Relief USA is honored to be partnering with such an esteemed and effective organization like HIAS to protect refugees who are in great need of assistance,” said IRUSA president Anwar Khan. “Our shared values have always been to help some of the most vulnerable populations around the world. With recent incidents of people not gaining access to essential services, and many them having their rights violated, we will work to put a stop to these disturbing trends and promote the legal rights of all refugees.”

The partnership will ensure that vulnerable migrants in Greece benefit from legal assistance, strategic litigation, and advocacy to advance refugee rights.

The groups seek to help refugees navigate constantly changing asylum procedures, as well as limitations on movement and employment, lack of police protection, and inadequate medical and mental health services that are available to them.



“HIAS is incredibly appreciative of Islamic Relief USA’s partnership,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. “Acting on the tenets of our faiths and historical experiences, HIAS and IRUSA are uniquely positioned to address together the mounting risks faced by refugees in Greece, and potentially offer a valuable model for similar joint efforts.”

HIAS first launched a program for refugees in Lesbos in 2016 to offer direct, individual legal representation to refugees in Greece.

In 2017, the team achieved a precedent-setting ruling recognizing the right of a Syrian refugee and a Syrian asylum-seeker to legally marry.

HIAS and IRUSA have been collaborating to advance refugee rights for several years.

In June 2017, IRUSA honored HIAS with its Courage Award.

“This powerful alliance between Jews and Muslims demonstrates our shared commitment to refugees,” said HIAS Board member Sandra Spinner. “In this time of divisiveness, I am pleased that we have come together to address the critical needs of the refugees in Greece.


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