The President of Greece, Ms Katerina Sakellaropoulou, visited the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, during her three-day trip to Portugal last week. She was welcomed to the Centre by Princess Zahra and Prince Hussain.

At the Ismaili Centre, President Sakellaropoulou also met with Portugal’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Francisco André, and leaders of the Jamat and AKDN. Ms Sakellaropoulou, the first woman to be elected President of Greece, has been in office since March 2020.

After a brief presentation of the Jamati institutional structure and the settlement programme, she also had the opportunity to meet families of refugees, and reunite with old acquaintances - one of whom was 13-year-old Arezu Kabuli from Afghanistan. After moving to Portugal from Greece, Arezu was awarded a scholarship to study at the International School of Boston, starting this autumn.

As part of a bilateral agreement, hundreds of refugees have arrived in Portugal from Greece in recent months, hoping to escape conflict and poverty, and find a safe, secure new home. Over the past three years, according to the International Rescue Committee, Greece has taken in over 50,000 refugees from the Middle East and South and Central Asia, some of whom aspire to move on to other European countries.

In recent years, the government of Portugal has prioritised the reception and integration of refugees, and works with local authorities and civil society in a continuous effort to support this commitment. The approach demonstrates solidarity with affected individuals and countries under pressure. 

The joint initiative between Greece and Portugal is an “example of how dialogue and cooperation, grounded in shared values… can make an enduring impact and change the future of generations to come,” said Nazim Ahmad, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat to Portugal, in a welcome address to guests at the event.

Speaking of the newly arrived families in Portugal, Mr Nazim expressed his greetings to them, affirming that, “we shall continue to do all that we can to assist in their integration and in starting a new life at our side, as members of our community that they now are.”

Refugee settlement is a multidimensional endeavour. A displaced family may require a combination of housing, financial, educational, employment, and legal support. They may also need urgent healthcare, mentoring, and crucially, language training.

Rahim Firozali, President of the Ismaili Council for Portugal spoke of the partnerships that the Jamati and Imamat institutions have forged with various organisations to provide such support and help refugees settle well in their new home. 

One such organisation is the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF). For many years, AKF Portugal has worked to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable populations, by contributing to economic integration and financial inclusion, while investing in people’s talents and potential, regardless of their individual characteristics. 

President Rahim also noted the institutions’ close partnership with the government, which offers access to education, healthcare and other important public services for newly arrived individuals and families. 

Delivered together, this multifaceted support is setting up families to succeed in their new environment.

Babies born to newly arrived couples are celebrated in Portugal’s media. After having travelled far to escape conflict and poverty, these young families and their fellow citizens can look forward to a safer, brighter future.