The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on Wednesday celebrated the 66th anniversary since its foundation and the 65th anniversary of its presence in Greece, with an event at the Athens Concert Hall under the aegis of President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Addressing the event, Pavlopoulos said that 2017 will be a “crucial year” for Europe’s future, in which many Europeans would be asked to demonstrate through national elections “what exactly it is that they want from Europe.”

“[We must show]…what we mean by Europe and we must be prepared to defend its identity,” he added.

The president noted that the IOM had known two phases of Greece’s post-war history during its 65 years in the country, the ’50s and ’60s when Greeks were migrating abroad to find work and the period following the ’90s, when it became a country receiving migrants.

“Now the United Nations and IOM, Greece, Europe and the entire world are facing two major challenges that will determine humanity’s course, its civilisation and that of our own European edifice: those two challenges are the refugee crisis and the migration crisis,” he added.

The first, he noted, was the result of wars for which the West bore great responsibility and the second the result of massive inequalities between rich and poor peoples.

He stressed that Europe and the west must treat refugees in ways “befitting our culture and our democracy,” while noting that the second problem was the result of mistaken policies on a global level, leading to widening inequality that had to be fought.

Other speakers at the event included Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, Deputy Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Balafas and the head of the IOM in Greece Daniel Esdras.

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