BEIRUT: Lebanon's Neshan Der Haroutiounian was the first Arabic speaker to be appointed Master of Ceremonies for the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award organized by the UNHCR in cooperation with the Government of Switzerland, Government of Norway and the Norwegian Refugee Council, the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva and the IKEA Foundation.
The Ceremony took place at the Batiment Des Forces Motrices in Geneva, on Monday October 3, 2016, where Neshan granted the award to both Greece's Konstantinos Mitragas on behalf of the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) and Efi Latsoudi, the human rights activist behind "PIKPA village" on the Greek island of Lesvos, who were joint winners of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award 2016.
Neshan has earned himself Pan-Arab recognition through his innovative work with several TV networks. Also a UNHCR supporter, Neshan has visited refugees in Lebanon, Iraq and latterly to meet both the Nansen winners in Greece.
The award recognizes their tireless voluntary efforts to aid refugees arriving in Greece during 2015, and reflects the spirit of volunteerism across Europe at the height of the refugee and migrant emergency.
Since 2007, Greece has been challenged by the arrival of a large number of refugees and migrants, but in 2015 sea arrivals escalated to an emergency. On the island of Lesvos alone, numbers topped 500,000 last year. In October 2015, arrivals peaked at more than 10,000 per day, as conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq continued to uproot people from their homes.
Latsoudi is one of the founders of PIKPA village on Lesvos. Formerly a children's summer camp, it was transformed in 2012 with the help of local authorities into a safe haven for vulnerable refugees. By the 2015 crisis, PIKPA was hosting around 600 refugees a day, despite a capacity of just 150. In the past four years, PIKPA village has helped over 30,000 refugees.
For many refugees, the heroic humanitarian efforts of Greek volunteers in 2015 went well beyond pulling survivors from the seas; they helped them to take the first steps towards a normal life.
During 2015, the HRT conducted round-the-clock operations to save refugees and migrants in distress at sea and Latsoudi showed compassion and care for the most vulnerable refugees arriving on the island of Lesvos through her work at PIKPA village.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi paid tribute to the efforts of the winner of the global humanitarian award. "Both the Hellenic Rescue Team and Efi Latsoudi refused to stand by as they witnessed the dramatic humanitarian situation unfolding on their shores, and are fully deserving of the Nansen Refugee Award. Their efforts characterize the massive public response to the refugee and migrant emergency in Greece and across Europe, in which thousands of people stood in solidarity with those forced to flee, and the humanity and generosity of communities around the world who open their hearts and homes to refugees," he said.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.