The interfaith venture will expand legal services for the most vulnerable refugee populations in Athens and Lesvos

Alexandria, VA — In 2015, Greece emerged as the most visible focal point of the largest global refugee crisis since World War II. More than a million refugees from Syria, Iraq and other countries in crisis passed through Greece in 2015 and 2016. Some 60,000 refugees remain in the European nation. In 2017, nearly 3,000 refugees arrived in Greece each month.

In response to the growing humanitarian and legal challenges facing the refugee population there, HIAS, the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees, and Islamic Relief USA, the U.S. arm ofthe humanitarian assistance and advocacy organization, today announced a joint initiative to provide legal services to refugees in Greece in 2018.

“Islamic Relief USA is honored to be partnering with such an esteemed and effective organization like HIAS to protect refugees who are in great need of assistance,” said IRUSA President Anwar Khan. “Our shared values have always been to help some of the most vulnerable populations around the world. With recent incidents of people not gaining access to essential services, and many of them having their rights violated, we will work to put a stop to these disturbing trends and promote the legal rights of all refugees.”

In Athens and on the island of Lesvos, this interfaith partnership will ensure that the most vulnerable refugees in Greece benefit from legal assistance, strategic litigation, and advocacy to advance refugee rights. The HIAS-IRUSA partnership will help refugees navigate the constantly changing asylum procedures, increasing limitations on movement and employment opportunities, lack of police protection, and inadequate medical and mental health services that are available to them.

“HIAS is incredibly appreciative of Islamic Relief USA’s partnership,” said Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. “Acting on the tenets of our faiths and historical experiences, HIAS and IRUSA are uniquely positioned to address together the mounting risks faced by refugees in Greece, and potentially offer a valuable model for similar joint efforts.”

HIAS first launched a program for refugees in Lesvos in 2016 to offer direct, individual legal representation to refugees in Greece. In 2017, the team achieved a precedent-setting ruling recognizing the right of a Syrian refugee and a Syrian asylum seeker to legally marry. This new and timely collaboration made possible by Islamic Relief USA, with the generous support of HIAS donors, will expand the capacity and impact of the legal team in Greece led by Vassilis Kerasiotis.

“This powerful alliance between Jews and Muslims demonstrates our shared commitment to refugees,” said HIAS Board Member Sandra Spinner. “In this time of divisiveness, I am pleased that we have come together to address the critical needs of the refugees in Greece.”

HIAS and IRUSA have been collaborating to advance refugee rights for several years. In June 2017, IRUSA honored HIAS with its Courage Award. Upon accepting the award in Washington, D.C., Hetfield noted, “All the Abrahamic faiths are united by the value of hospitality and welcoming the stranger as ourselves, for we were all once strangers in a strange land.”




Minhaj Hassan

Islamic Relief USA,, 703-370-7246


Gabe Cahn

HIAS,, 212-613-1312



HIAS is the global Jewish nonprofit that protects refugees—including women and children, and ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities—whose lives are in danger for being who they are. Guided by our values and history, HIAS helps refugees rebuild their lives in safety and advocates to ensure that all displaced people are treated with dignity. More info at @HIASrefugees, Facebook and

Backed by over 2,000 American rabbis in 48 states and more than 380 congregations across the country, HIAS stands firm in our commitment, as Jews and as Americans, to support and welcome refugees.


Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) humanitarian organization. Its mission is to provide relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. Its programs benefit millions of people each year in more than 40 countries around the world, including in the United States.

Islamic Relief USA meets all of the Standards for Charity Accountability of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a national charity monitoring group affiliated with the Better Business Bureau system. Islamic Relief USA is on the U.S. government’s Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity list, and it is also a signatory to the code of conduct of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Islamic Relief USA is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization (Tax ID# 95-4453134) | CFC# 10194 | Islamic Relief USA © 2024 | All Rights Reserved