Today, a Greek association Agkalia from the island of Lesvos has received the Council of Europe’s Raoul Wallenberg Prize 2016 Prize for outstanding achievements in providing frontline assistance to thousands of refugees irrespective of their origin and religion.
As Lesvos has become a European gateway for refugees, Agkalia has been providing temporary shelter, food, water and medical aid to people in need, assisting some 17,000 refugees and migrants since May 2015. Through its work to assist refugees, Agkalia also promotes tolerance and human rights.
Founded by Father Efstratios (“Papa-Stratis”), who passed away in September 2015, Agkalia has continued to gain steady support as its devoted associates pursue the Father’s endeavour.
“As a small and flexible local organisation based on volunteers, Agkalia sets a leading example of effective action by European civil society on the burning global issue”, stated Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland during the award ceremony. “Agkalia makes a real difference for the people who reach the island after a dangerous sea crossing. Its activities reflect the fundamental values of the Council of Europe and contribute to its work to promote and protect human rights in Europe and beyond.”
“Only humanism and tolerance can bring better days to Europe in this dark moment,” said representative of the Agkalia association Georgios Tyrikos-Ergas in his speech during the ceremony. “The European people, volunteers from so many nations who responded to our call for help set the example of how this can be achieved – through solidarity. Utopia or not, we have seen it happening in Greece with our own eyes”.
The Council of Europe Raoul Wallenberg Prize worth 10,000 Euro was established in 2012 at the initiative of the Swedish Government and the Hungarian Parliament. The first prize, which is biennial, was awarded in January 2014 to Elmas Arus, Turkish film director of Roma origin.