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Press Release

Western Union Foundation awards $250,000 to the IRC for immediate relief and long-term support to refugees and asylum seekers stranded on Greek Isles

The grant will also support IRC’s advocacy efforts to influence more inclusive policies at the local, national, and EU level

 Today, the International Rescue Committee announced a new milestone in their partnership with the Western Union Foundation, to support refugees and asylum seekers stranded on the Greek Isles amidst undignified conditions without adequate shelter and crucial services. In addition to immediate relief and integration support, the grant will support the IRC’s advocacy efforts at the national and EU level to influence refugee reception and integration policies in Greece and Europe.  

Across the Greek islands, over 13,000 displaced people seeking protection in Europe remain stranded in dangerous and undignified living conditions. Despite recent efforts by the Greek government, to decongest the islands and improve the living conditions the difficulties in access to water, sanitation, shelter, safety, and services like education or healthcare, amounts to a humanitarian crisis. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created further obstacles in accessing critical services and improving living conditions. Current migration policies in the EU and Greece have proven to be wholly inadequate in providing the resources and infrastructure necessary to protect the health, safety, and rights of refugees and asylum seekers.  

“When people escaping violence and war first reach the Greek shores, they are not allowed to leave the islands until they have received international protection,” explained Martha Roussou, ,Advocacy Manager for the IRC. “The EU’s policy of containing displaced people in “frontline” countries (such as Greece) is flawed and has catastrophic consequences for thousands of asylum seekers living in inhumane conditions, without adequate access to services and support towards their economic inclusion/integration.That is why this support from our partners at Western Union Foundation is more crucial and impactful than ever. It will address not only the immediate needs of the most vulnerable in Greece, but will support our long-term advocacy efforts to bring about much needed changes in policies at the local, national, and EU level”.  

Elizabeth Roscoe, Western Union Foundation Executive Director and Global Head of Corporate Brand and Purpose, said: “Our grant to IRC builds upon our commitment to the Western Union Foundation’s mission to help the forcibly displaced gain access to the global economy, especially during times of crises. Our two-fold support will rebuild lives by providing workforce skills and cultural integration paired with broader systems change. These efforts are critical in order to strive for humane policies and opportunity for not only the refugees and aslyees from the Moria Camp, but for many throughout the EU.” 

This grant builds upon the existing partnership between the IRC and Western Union Foundation dating back to 2016, which has supported a variety of IRC’s programs across the globe in addition to recent support for COVID-19 relief. Read more about IRC's work in Greece here. For more information about Western Union Foundation, please visit https://www.westernunion.com/foundation/.  

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.