• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Dalaras learns more about refugee issues

News Stories, 10 January 2007

© Greek Ministry of Public Order/Dikopoulos
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador George Dalaras (centre) receives a guided VIP tour of the Athens Aliens Police Directorate. Photo courtesy of and

ATHENS, Greece, January 10 (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador George Dalaras has been busy in recent weeks finding out about refugee issues in Greece and will soon visit Africa to see UNHCR field operations at first hand.

The popular Greek singer and musician, who was appointed a UNHCR goodwill ambassador in October, last week visited the Athens Aliens Police Directorate with a UNHCR delegation.

In mid-December, Dalaras met Minister of Public Order Vyron Polydoras and discussed refugee protection issues in Greece. He plans to hold further discussions about refugees and the work of UNHCR with the ministers of interior and health in the coming weeks.

Dalaras also hopes to visit refugee camps in Sierra Leone and Liberia from February 12-18. Details are yet to be finalised, but this will be his first formal visit overseas as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador.

During the January 3 visit to the Athens Aliens Police Directorate, Dalaras toured the rooms where asylum seekers are interviewed, visited cells that are used to hold illegal immigrants as well as asylum seekers, and met detainees. He heard about measures that had been implemented to speed the processing of asylum seekers and deter economic migrants from seeking asylum in a bid to prolong their stay in Greece.

Dalaras and the UNHCR representatives said it was important to keep upgrading the quality of the asylum procedure so that guarantees for the protection of refugees would not be sacrificed for speed. Dalaras also proposed a pilot programme for the observation of asylum procedures by trained volunteers.

"It is very important that asylum seeker claims are examined in a fair, fast and efficient way and that they live in humane conditions. I want to contribute so that these rights are protected," he said during the visit, adding: "Refugee protection is not a matter of compassion; it is a matter of social solidarity, human rights principles and the state's obligation."

Although Dalaras has been a UNHCR goodwill ambassador for less than four months, his relationship with the agency causes goes back several years while the singer's mother was a refugee from Asia Minor. He will be starring in a UNHCR benefit concert at the Athens Concert Hall on January 30.

By Ketty Kehayioylou in Athens, Greece




UNHCR country pages

Barbara Hendricks and UNHCR

Hendricks' activities for refugees since 1986.

Barbara Hendricks Biography

Read about Hendricks' life and career.

Muazzez Ersoy Biography

A Turkish singing delight.

Muazzez Ersoy and UNHCR

Learn about Muazzez Ersoy's links with UNHCR.

George Dalaras and UNHCR

Read about Dalaras's long link with UNHCR.

George Dalaras Biography

A star among the pantheon of stars.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors

Learn about our loyal ambassadors.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

George Dalaras

George Dalaras

The makeshift camp at Patras

Thousands of irregular migrants, some of whom are asylum-seekers and refugees, have sought shelter in a squalid, makeshift camp close to the Greek port of Patras since it opened 13 years ago. The camp consisted of shelters constructed from cardboard and wood and housed hundreds of people when it was closed by the Greek government in July 2009. UNHCR had long maintained that it did not provide appropriate accommodation for asylum-seekers and refugees. The agency had been urging the government to find an alternative and put a stronger asylum system in place to provide appropriate asylum reception facilities for the stream of irregular migrants arriving in Greece each year.The government used bulldozers to clear the camp, which was destroyed by a fire shortly afterwards. All the camp residents had earlier been moved and there were no casualties. Photographer Zalmaï, a former refugee from Afghanistan, visited the camp earlier in the year.

The makeshift camp at Patras

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett visits refugees in JordanPlay video

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett visits refugees in Jordan

UNHCR global Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett has recently visited Jordan, where she witnessed the ongoing humanitarian support to people displaced by conflict in Syria.
Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni
Play video

Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni

From her small house in Idomeni, Greek grandmother Panagiota Vasileiadou, 82, saw first-hand the bare need of refugees desperate for food to feed their children or clean water to shower and wash their clothes. As a daughter of ethnic Greek refugees herself - who left Turkey in a population exchange after the 1919-1922 Greco-Turkish war - she is now doing all she can to help the latest wave of refugees by giving out food and clothes.
Greece: Health risk to refugee children in IdomeniPlay video

Greece: Health risk to refugee children in Idomeni

Some 10,000 refugees and migrants remain camped out at an informal site at Greece's northern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The makeshift home is also home to an estimated 4,000 children, the majority of whom are under the age of five. Doctors warn conditions in the camp are becoming dangerous for children.