Durbin Speaks on Senate Floor to Share Experience on Greek Island at Center of Syrian Refugee Crisis

Durbin, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, also traveled to Kyiv in his second visit to the region this year

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), an outspoken supporter of providing humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees and increasing the capacity for refugee admissions to the United States, spoke on the Senate Floor today about his recent travel to Greece, where he visited the island of Lesbos. Thousands of refugees have come ashore after fleeing the violence in Syria.


“The mayor of Lesbos has been generous and thoughtful in addressing the suffering. He told me he often thought he was handling a ticking time bomb with this refugee crisis. Instead his island has become an example of what the rest of the world can do,” Durbin said. “The United States leads the world in financial assistance for this Syrian refugee effort, but we have a moral obligation to do that and more. I’ve called on the Administration to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees. I’m the cosponsor of the emergency supplemental bill addressing refugee assistance recently introduced by Senators Graham and Leahy.”


In his remarks, Durbin called on the Republican leadership in the Senate to swiftly confirm Gayle Smith, the nominee to serve as the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Thomas Melia, who is nominated to serve as the agency’s Assistant Administrator. Although USAID is heading the American response to the Syrian refugee crisis – what Durbin has called the “greatest humanitarian crisis of our time” – Republican obstructionism has left the agency without a leader for more than eight months.


Video of Durbin’s remarks about his visit to Greece on the Senate Floor is available here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks about his visit to Greece on the Senate Floor is available here.


Footage of Durbin’s remarks about his visit to Greece on the Senate Floor is available for TV Stations using FTP in high definition here and in standard definition here.


Durbin also traveled to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and several members of the Ukrainian Parliament to discuss the American and Ukrainian response to continued Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine. 


“Yet amid all this effort to undermine Ukraine, the country has found a new unity and determination. It has taken on significant reforms. During my visit with my fellow senators, I was struck by how many dedicated Ukrainians are working for a better future,” Durbin said. “They are now members of Parliament, local officials coming right out of the Maidan Demonstration. They’re giving everything they can for the future of their country. I have been a strong supporter of President Obama’s efforts to support Ukraine and to train and equip its military and to provide assistance for their courageous effort. As the world’s attention is distracted to many other challenges, let's not lose sight of the ongoing struggle in Ukraine.”


Video of Durbin’s remarks about his visit to Ukraine on the Senate Floor is available here.


Durbin traveled with Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).