Greek Volunteers Awarded UN Refugee Award, Nansen Prize

lesvos refugees UNHCR announced on Tuesday that the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT) made up of some 2,000 volunteers will share the annual Nansen prize for saving thousands of refugees with Efi Latsoudi, a human rights activist on the Greek island of Lesvos for “their tireless volunteer work during the 2015 refugee crisis on Greece’s shores,” UNHCR said.

Latsoudi is a trained psychologist and human rights activist as well as a volunteer at PIKPA village on Lesvos where she helped many refugees with physical disabilities or women who had lost their children during the crossing of the Mediterranean.

For me supporting refugees is not something exceptional, it’s something that we have to do,” Latsoudi said in a statement.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees acknowledged HRT’s exceptional efforts at sea for their “round-the-clock efforts to save refugees and migrants in distress from the sea.”

The HRT volunteers saved 2,500 lives last year and carried out 1,035 rescues. In all they helped more than 7,000 people to safety.

According to government reports, last year alone more then 850,000 refugees arrived on the shores of Greece, with over 500,000 reaching the island of Lesvos. UN data shows that around 800 people died or went missing crossing from Turkey to Greece in 2015. At the peak of the crisis, the island saw over 10,000 arrivals per day.