The safe and untroubled evacuation of at least 19,000 people, many of them foreign nationals, away from the burning wildfires at the island of Rhodes with the help of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, was “the biggest-ever operation to evacuate foreign nationals in Greek territory,” Greek diplomatic sources said on Monday.
The ministry moved fast and in a coordinated manner to contribute to handling the emergency situation, it was added.
The ministry’s Crises Management Unit was activated on Saturday by order of Greek Foreign Affairs Minister George Gerapetritis, and has been operating on a 24-hour basis with 3 help lines (210-3681730, 3681-1350, 3681-1259).
So far the ministry has received some 2,500 calls by foreign visitors which mostly concern the facilitation of their communication with embassies, transportation to temporary accomodation, and information about leaving Rhodes. Help with replacing lost travel documents was also provided, it was noted.
Although the Greek foreign affairs ministry is known to provide help to Greek citizens abroad, “this is the first time the ministry assumed an active role in the management of a crisis involving foreign citizens in Greece,” diplomatic sources noted.
Besides a help desk set up at the Rhodes International Airport, the ministry has set up a desk at the Civil Protection headquarters, where embassy attachés have been tasked with writing, editing and translating press releases that are being sent to international news agencies, including the BBC.