The head of the Orthodox Church in Greece has appealed for help from international churches and the global community to "join forces" to help handle the refugee crisis besetting the country.

In a translation of a letter written to Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit on 30th March, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Archbishop Hieronymos said that while the Church of Greece continues to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing Greece, church shared the view of the Greek Government that "our small country, exhausted from the years-long economic crisis, is not in a position to confront alone this major refugee issue".

He said "substantial interventions are needed". "We consider that the manifestation of European solidarity, first of all through the re-examination of the decision to close the borders, but also through substantial efforts to eliminate the root causes of the refugee crisis should be undertaken".

Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a one day conference held in Geneva on the issue of Syrian refugees that more needed to be done to provide solutions to the refugee crisis which has seen 4.8 million Syrians flee their country.

He said while the best way to "offer hope to Syrians" is to end the five year conflict, until that time "the world must step up, with concrete actions and pledges". "All countries can do more," he said.

The conference, which was attended by representatives of some 92 nations, saw a modest increase in the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places offered for Syrian refugees to about 185,000. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, estimates that at least 10 per cent of the 4.8 million Syrians who have left their country will need resettling outside their country before the end of 2018.

Australia has pledged to take 12,000 Syrian refugees but reports say only about 100 have so far arrived.

~ www.oikoumene.org

~ www.unhcr.org