NEWS

Strict controls on distribution of aid to tsunami victims and hopes for return of missing Greeks

Greece’s deputy foreign ministers, Yiannis Valinakis and Evripidis Stylianidis, have issued heartfelt thanks to the Greek people for their massive response to a humanitarian aid drive for the victims of the earthquake and tsunamis in south Asia. Despite some hitches, the two deputy ministers said the state services had responded efficiently. However, Valinakis said it had been decided to review the distribution of Greece’s diplomatic forces wherever these were seen to be inadequate. Stylianidis talked about a decision to take a closer look at some non-governmental organizations that have shown in practice that they are operating solely for the profit of their own members. Valinakis: Marathon response How many Greeks are still being sought in the stricken areas? First of all I would like to express my gratitude for the moving response of the Greek people to the [fund-raising] marathon organized by the state media. I must admit that I did not expect either the level of participation or the amount raised would be so high. The marathon broke every record. However, no one can forget the thousands of missing, above all the Greeks who may have been in the affected areas at the time. The official number of missing is unchanged (seven Greeks have been declared missing) and we hope that the Foreign Ministry services will be able to find them. That is why we are making intensive efforts to continue the search. Is it true that there are Greeks missing in the Maldives? Is it possible that the official number of missing might rise? During crisis management all possibilities are examined, even suspicions. We are exhausting all possibilities with all the means at our disposal. However, our efforts have met with difficulties due to the chaotic situation in the affected region. In the circumstances, we all hope that the number of missing Greeks will not rise, and that others not on the ministry’s list will also return home safely. There have been some complaints from relatives of the missing seeking information. Are you absolutely satisfied with the way the ministry has functioned? The major issue in these cases is how fast, coordinated and effective a service can be. An entire mechanism was set up in minimal time and its effectiveness cannot, I think, be doubted except by those who always find fault, which, may I say, is not appropriate at this time. At first there were some problems, as was natural due to the magnitude of the crisis, the great distance and the lack of an integrated mechanism. We were the first ones to arrive in Phuket and that was no accident. We drew many conclusions that we will now develop into permanent mechanisms and plans. Naturally, as long as there are Greeks missing, they will be our first concern. There have been reports of a redistribution of our diplomatic resources. The Foreign Ministry leadership believes there is an immediate need to redistribute our diplomatic resources. I remind you that we have already begun the process by boosting consulates or closing them where necessary. This will continue according to a strategy and a program based on new needs that have arisen which the existing system cannot cope with.