European Lawyers in Lesvos receives the 2019 Peace Prize

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*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
  • To read a version of this release in French, click here.
  • To read a version of this release in Spanish, click here.

Pax Christi International is pleased to announce that the European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL), based in Greece, is the recipient of the 2019 Pax Christi International Peace Prize.

The award ceremony will be held at 19.00 on Wednesday, 26 June, at Nelson Mandela Hall, Sleep Well Hostel, Rue du Damier 23, Brussels. The prize will be accepted by ELIL’s managing director, Philip Worthington. Attendees will include Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa) and Ms Marie Dennis, Co-presidents of Pax Christi International and Ms. Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International’s Secretary General. Music will be provided by Zem. A reception will follow the one-hour ceremony. 

“European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) is delighted and honoured to have been chosen to receive the 2019 Pax Christi International Peace Prize,” said ELIL’s managing director Philip Worthington. “We are very grateful that our work to uphold the rule of law, protect human rights and ensure meaningful access to justice for refugees on Lesvos has been recognised in this way and hope that it will help raise awareness of the critical importance of ensuring that refugees have access to legal assistance throughout their asylum procedure.”

One of the very few providers of legal assistance on the Greek island of Lesvos (also known as Lesbos, a focal point of mass immigration into Europe), ELIL was founded in June 2016 by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). These organisations represent the bars and law societies of 32 member countries and 13 further associate and observer countries across Europe, and through them more than one million European lawyers.

Since that time, along with a small permanent staff, almost 150 volunteer asylum lawyers from 17 countries have provided free legal assistance to more than 9,000 people, most of whom are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. ELIL is the largest provider of legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos and is the primary provider of legal assistance to unaccompanied minors who have been incorrectly registered as adults (over 500 cases in total) and asylum seekers in detention (almost 200 cases in total). In addition to other services, ELIL also helps reunite families by assisting with family reunification applications under the Dublin Regulation.

“ELIL is engaged in relevant and critical peace and justice activism,” said Greet Vanaerschot, secretary general of Pax Christi International. “Here in Europe, we have been shocked to witness a political debate that is demonising migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, contrary to the vision of a Europe which respects human dignity and fundamental rights. It is gratifying and inspirational to see the number of lives ELIL has touched in such a short time and the number of voluntary hours they give. As people of faith, Pax Christi members believe we have a responsibility to welcome, care and advocate for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers; we celebrate ELIL and its profoundly important work.”

Established in 1988, the Pax Christi International Peace Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and nonviolence in different parts of the world.
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2019 Peace Prize Ceremony

The award ceremony was held in Brussels on Wednesday, 26 June, at Nelson Mandela Hall at the Sleep Well Hostel. The prize was accepted by ELIL’s managing director, Philip Worthington. Speeches were given by Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa) and Ms. Marie Dennis (Washington, D.C.), Co-presidents of Pax Christi International. The award was presented by Ms. Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International’s Secretary General. Music was provided by Zem.

Texts of the speeches

Videos of the speeches

Click here to see photos of the ceremony.

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