“The Smile of the Child” was the host of a three-day visit in Greece of Representatives of the Migration Committee of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations of the Council of Europe

29 November 2022


Athens, November 29, 2022


“The Smile of the Child” was the host of a three-day visit in Greece of Representatives of the Migration Committee of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations of the Council of Europe


With great honor and pleasure “The Smile of the Child” welcomed and hosted Representatives of the Committee  “Rights of persons who are migrants” of the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) of the Council of Europe from the 21st to the 23rd of November, 2022. The Organization, which participates in the Committee, was the host and the main organizer of their three-day working visit in Greece whose aim was to meet “The Smile of the Child” along with other Non-Governmental Organizations and share their actions on the migration/refugee issue focusing on the two following axes: the access of NGOs to migrant populations (1), and the access of migrants to their fundamental rights (2) -with a focus on health, security and education-.


The Migration Committee was represented by its President Mr. Daniel Guéry (MIAMSI), the Head of International Cooperation at “The Smile of the Child” and former Belgian Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Marc Van den Reeck, who represents the Organization in the said committee, a member of the Communication Team Ms. Salomé Brun and a representative of the Standing Committee of the Conference of INGOs, Mr. Goran Miletic.


The representatives were greeted by the President of “The Smile of the Child” Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, along with the coordinators of the Organization’s department of International Cooperation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the medical department, the Social Services, the Day Center ‘The House of The Child’, the Programs department, as well as the Organization’s European Student Voluntary Network “YouSmile”.


During the morning meeting on the first day at the operational center ‘Andreas Yannopoulos’ of “The Smile of the Child”, Mr. Yannopoulos and the staff members, gave an overview of the areas of action of the Organization in the field of child care and child protection over the last 27 years, and emphasized how they are interconnected and available to respond to the complex issues of the migration phenomenon that Greece, along with the whole of Europe, is facing.


On his side, the Committee’s President, Mr. Daniel Guéry, warmly thanked the Organization for the organization and hospitality and expressed the intimacy he felt in the Organization’s ‘family’ atmosphere, stating: “Our aim is to draw experiences and information from all the parties who are involved in the migration/refugee/asylum seekers field in Greece. “The Smile of the Child” performs remarkable work considering the holistic and complementary approach of its actions. The smile it brings on the faces of children who are protected and respected is undoubtedly the greatest gift the Organization gives them. At present, holistic help is the only way to deal with the complicated issues that migrants/refugees confront, given that all the issues of security, health, education, protection etc. are inextricably linked. Whether in Athens or Kavala, we have witnessed the exemplary actions you have put in place for migrant children. We will not fail to make this known in our Committee, the Conference of INGOs and all Council of Europe bodies concerned of migration issues. I would like to congratulate “The Smile of the Child” for its efforts to be accessible to the said population.”


The same day, an exchange of good practices took place on the topic of ‘NGOs’ access to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers populations and their right to safety’ with the heads of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Mrs. Maria Clara Martin, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Greece Mr. Gianluca Rocco, followed by a roundtable discussion with representatives of 17 NGOs who work in the field of migration. During these exchanges, special attention was given to the issues of civil society organizations’ access to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants regarding safety issues and the physical integrity of the latter. Among other issues, the discussion was centered on the violence many refugees, migrants and asylum seeker experience and the deprivation of their freedom. The challenges unaccompanied children are facing, especially during their transition to adulthood was also mentioned, as well as the challenges of NGOs in accessing camps because of the obligation for them to register to the national authorities, but also the need for the actual integration of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in society.


On the morning of Tuesday, November 22nd, a second roundtable discussion took place with 12 NGO representatives on the question of the access for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to their fundamental rights with a focus on health and education. During this discussion, the need of housing possibilities and traineeships for teachers and people working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were mentioned, such as the necessity of a special attention given to mental health and the concerns around the suspension of the ESTIA program.


Following the schedule of the 3-day stay, on Wednesday, November 23rd, the Organization’s Social Services coordinator escorted the representatives of the Committee to a successful integration facility created by ‘The Smile of The Child’, namely, its Home in Iraklitsa, Kavala. The visit’s aim was to have an overview on the ground experience of the ‘mixed model’ Home operation for younger refugee and migrant children, whose purpose is the multidisciplinary and specialized care, growth, and social integration. Later on, the guests had the pleasure to have lunch with the children and discuss with them, along with the help from their educators.


The rest of the three-day stay was dedicated to visiting integration facilities created in Athens and Thessaloniki such the HELIOS program from IOM in partnership with other NGOs working on the issue of integrating migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers withing the society.


Conclusions to this visit will be drawn by the Committee in order to give a political dimension to the issues highlighted and give more light to the conditions migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are evolving into their non-access to fundamental rights, such as the difficulties NGOs are facing to access these populations. Indeed, the Committee is in touch with the migration commission of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe , the special representative of the secretary general on migration and Refugees  and other actors of the Council of Europe that could put these considerations to a further step.

You can download the photo material: https://photos.app.goo.gl/SLdkThwnrP29t9PS8


For further information:
The Smile of the Child
Press Office
Tel. 11040 (local charge)


1. https://www.coe.int/en/web/ingo/rights-of-persons-who-are-migrants
2. https://pace.coe.int/en/aplist/committees/27/committee-on-migration-refugees-and-displaced-persons
3. https://www.coe.int/en/web/special-representative-secretary-general-migration-refugees/home