Thursday, June 3, 2021, 1:00 p.m.
Kalispera. Let me start by saying how moved and impressed I am by what Niko and Marianna are doing here at the Arsis center. I had the opportunity a few years ago to visit the Arsis facility in Alexandroupoli, and I always find it inspiring to see the work that Greek NGOs are doing to accommodate people who are much less fortunate.
Since the start of the European refugee crisis in 2015, I have seen the Greek people demonstrate great hospitality, great filotimo and generosity towards those who have come to Greece seeking to escape physical or economic hardship, usually seeking to get elsewhere in Europe. This is a challenge for all of Europe, all of the European Union, and Greece should not be expected alone to bear the burden of what is clearly a migration challenge for all of the European Union.
I am very proud of the fact that the United States government has been able to offer some assistance to Greece in bearing this burden, both through our contributions to IOM and UNHCR, for which the United States is the largest funder, but also through our direct bilateral assistance to NGOs and service providers here in Greece. We have made a special focus since the start of the COVID pandemic, providing 4.7 million dollars in humanitarian assistance, specifically to support the response of groups like IOM and others to deal with the humanitarian impact on refugee and migrant communities from COVID-19.
We also have an ongoing program of small grants, which go to Greek NGOs like Arsis, and I was proud today to see how Arsis has been able to use the grant which has enabled the modernization of this facility here in Thessaloniki, helping children who clearly deserve a better chance in life. I’m very proud of the fact that we are continuing this assistance. For 2021, our Taft Grant beneficiary will be Metadrasi, another NGO in Greece that I have gotten to know, including through visits to their facilities for unaccompanied minors on some of the islands.
I thank especially this community that we’re visiting today, these kids. As a parent, and my wife Mary has actually volunteered with the HOME project in Athens as a teacher. You realize that these kids are incredibly resilient, very strong, but also, they’ve been through great difficulty. And it reflects very well on Greece that Greek groups like Arsis, Metadrasi, the HOME project, and many others have provided such generous assistance to those less fortunate. So thank you, Niko, Marianna, for sharing your story today. Thank you for the work you do, and we look forward to continuing our partnership. Efcharisto poli.