Assisting Greek citizens abroad is one of the Foreign Ministry’s principal duties. In recent years, major natural disasters worldwide have led to an increasing number of requests for assistance made by Greek citizens abroad; assistance in emergency situations.
To meet this need effectively, the Foreign Ministry has set up a Crisis Management Unit.
This Unit operates under the supervision of the Secretary General as the coordinating body amongst services at the Foreign Ministry and other Ministries when emergency situations of a humanitarian or consular nature arise. In emergencies, the Unit is put into 24-hour operation, providing the necessary organizational support for the Ministry services involved in confronting a given emergency.
The operation of the Crisis Management Unit is provided for in article 14 of the Foreign Ministry Statutes (Law 3566/2007) and its organization is regulated more specifically by a Ministerial Decision (Π23ΜΔΚ-28804/ΑΣ 14434/15.12.2009).
While the primary responsibility for consular assistance and handling emergency situations of a consular nature is national, the provision of consular protection is a mutual obligation of the member states of the European Union and is provided for is article 23 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Consular assistance in emergency situations
Consular assistance is provided to Greek citizens by Greece’s Consular Missions abroad.
If Greece is not represented in a third country, consular protection for Greek citizens is provided by the authorities of any member state of the European Union.
In the immediacy of a conflict or natural disaster, migrants, like many other affected populations, will seek to flee to safety by relocating within the host State to areas unaffected by the crisis, across borders to States of transit as a temporary haven, or back to States of origin. Normal immigration processes are disrupted by crises and States may need to clarify how disruptions affect such processes.
Migrants may need support to reach safety. Identity and travel documents can be destroyed, lost, or left behind in the chaos or intensity of a crisis. Some migrants, particularly victims of trafficking or migrants in other exploitative situations, may have had their identity and travel documents confiscated. Yet others may have arrived in the host State without authorization and never possessed valid documentation.
Access to valid identity and travel documents is crucial for migrants seeking to cross international borders to escape harm. Migrants may be required to present such documents in order to flee to safety within the host State or to obtain assistance. States of origin depend on identity and travel documents to determine citizenship and to assist citizens to evacuate or return to their homes.
Migrants seeking safety may face barriers in meeting visa requirements, securing immigration exit visas, paying immigration fees or penalties for overstay, and fulfilling entry requirements (particularly in States of transit). Migrants’ ability to move to safety may be limited by visa and work permits that restrict them to particular geographic areas or employers. Waiving restrictions or lifting penalties for violating restrictions during a conflict or natural disaster can help save lives and improve migrants’ access to help.
In addition to dangers in a crisis that prevent all affected populations from fleeing (insecure areas, blocked ports of exit, destroyed transportation infrastructure), migrants in detention are particularly vulnerable. If custodians of detention facilities flee their posts, migrant detainees may be unable to get out of harm’s way and access humanitarian assistance.
Waivers or exceptions to exit, stay, and entry requirements.
Timely issuance of laissez-passer and replacement of other identity and travel documents.
Deployment of consular assistance teams to borders, airports, or other transit points.
Provision of temporary or humanitarian protection status for migrants.
Evacuation plans for detention facilities and migrant shelters.
Advocacy with and among States on keeping borders open to facilitate movement to safety.
During some crises, stakeholders may be able to protect migrants where they are located in the host State. But this may not always be possible, especially in situations where the repercussions of a conflict or natural disaster envelop large geographic areas. Where protection cannot be provided locally, it may be necessary to relocate migrants to other parts of the host State or evacuate them to States of transit or the State of origin. Some migrants may make these journeys on their own. Many may rely on States, their employers, recruiters, or placement agencies, international organizations, civil society, and other migrants for support and assistance.
Evacuation is generally a last resort but absolutely essential if migrants cannot remain safely where they are and cannot be relocated safely to another part of the host State. Where comprehensive contingency plans and standing evacuation and relocation arrangements are not already in place, ad hoc arrangements may be needed to communicate evacuation information, determine eligibility for evacuation, establish modes of evacuation, and negotiate with States of transit and other actors. States, regardless of whether they are party to relevant international instruments, should implement specific safeguards to ensure individuals who face persecution, or, as appropriate, serious harm or other life-threatening situations in their States of origin or other States, including refugees, are protected against refoulement. Stateless persons may need specific assistance to take advantage of evacuation arrangements. Coordination between States and other stakeholders in carrying out evacuations can leverage resources, for example, to transport migrants to States of origin in the same region.
Evacuation of migrants to States of transit or States of origin with their informed consent.
Establishment of criteria for eligibility for evacuation.
Multi-stakeholder cooperation on evacuation.
Evacuation for family units who have family members of different nationalities.
Deploying personnel to consular posts to assist with evacuation.