Migration and Human Smuggling Focus at Athens Seminar
By James Brooks
Public Affairs Office
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (June 21, 2017) – Nearly two dozen senior security professionals from seven European nations gathered in Athens, Greece, for a two-day conference examining migration and human smuggling, June 14-15, 2017.
Organized by the George C. Marshall European Center’s Program on Central and Southeast Europe, the conference brought together security officials to share their experiences with the ongoing migration and human smuggling crisis and develop professional relationships to better respond internationally to this and future crises.
“The migration crisis and human smuggling is a very important topic in this part of Europe. Having the conference here at what is one of the primary arrival countries and where human smuggling is a focus of the maritime services made for a great discussion,” said Marshall Center Program on Central and Southeast Europe Director Matt Rhodes and conference organizer.
The conference was divided up into seven different sessions led by Marshall Center faculty to stimulate the conversation between participants. Nations represented at the conference were Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy Macedonia, and Serbia.
Deputy Coordinator of Greece’s Joint Operation Center and Coast Guard Lt. Athanasios Benos found the conference professionally rewarding. Benos is an alumnus of the Marshall Center’s Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) program and the conference gave him an opportunity to reconnect with colleagues and focus more on the challenges his country is facing.
“We shared different perspectives and ways to approach and coordinate efforts during a migration crisis. It’s nice to share ideas in a forum like this and to work together. This conference and the Marshall Center CTOC course has broadened my perspectives on security issues,” said Benos.
In addition to making important contacts with security professionals in neighboring countries, conference attendees left with a fresh perspective on migration and human smuggling. The lessons learned and shared best practices will shape the way nations work together to respond in the future.
“Some of the things that came out of the conference is the ability to draw conclusions from the recent crisis and prepare for the future. As we see with many conferences like this, participants recognize the need for a review of the legal and legislative basis for what nations can and are doing. There is always the need for channels of coordination and cooperation for whole-of-government and whole-of-society solutions. The role of non-government organizations (NGOs) was brought up often and the need for policymakers and the general public to have a better understanding of the situation than what might be portrayed in the media,” said Rhodes.