Jordan's Queen Rania visits refugees on Greek island of Lesbos
LESBOS, Greece // Queen Rania of Jordan met refugees at a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos yesterday and said the people there had “seen unspeakable horror and experienced unthinkable tragedy”.
Scores of refugees and migrants clapped and cheered as she walked through the Kara Tepe camp. They are among more than one million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa who have streamed into Europe since last year in the continent’s biggest migration crisis since the Second World War.
Jordan has accepted more than 630,000 Syrian refugees registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Most of them are living in poverty outside the refugee camps, according to human rights groups.
“It is impossible to really understand the magnitude of the crisis until you come face to face with it,” Queen Rania said.
“These people have gone from suffering to suffering and the one thing I keep hearing is that if they had a choice they would be back in their homes; that this was a last resort.”
More than 4,000 refugees and migrants are living on Lesbos, most of them behind the barbed wire fence of a disused military camp. About 850 people, mostly families, live in Kara Tepe, a site from which 12 refugees were flown out by Pope Francis last week after he visited the island.
Queen Rania had been invited by the International Rescue Committee, an aid agency which has installed showers, toilets, laundry facilities and lights at the site.
To stem the flow of migrants and refugees arriving in Europe from Turkey on boats, the European Union and Turkey signed an accord last month under which those who arrived in Greece from March 20 and did not qualify for asylum would be sent back. The deal has been criticised by human rights groups and the UNHCR, which said Turkey was not a safe country for refugees and who questioned whether the deal was legal or moral.
“This is a crisis about human beings, not about borders and barriers,” Queen Rania said. “It is about human dignity, not about deals.”
Jordan has been praised for helping refugees and has been a big beneficiary of foreign aid as a result. But it has also drawn criticism over the situation near its border with Syria, where thousands of refugees are being kept far from any aid.
Published: April 25, 2016 04:00 AM