In 2016, due to the severe refugee crisis experienced by Europe, the first YMCA Europe conference on immigration was organized in the Netherlands, with the participation of 16 countries and 70 YMCA leaders.

As a result of this conference, we now have a database of projects that various YMCAs are doing with refugees, a statement of principles has been published on how our organization approaches the refugee issue, and cooperation between YMCAs has been strengthened.

The YMCA Europe Refugee Committee has been meeting regularly since then. It is considered that, far from being solved, the challenge of the inclusion of refugees is still at the forefront today. For this reason, it was decided to hold a second conference on the same subject. Given the constraints imposed by the pandemic, in this case the conference would be online.

On February 19, 2021, with about 80 people watching the conference via the zoom platform and almost a thousand watching it live via Facebook, the second YMCA Europe conference on immigration took place. Although the conference was organized by Europe, the audience came from many countries and time zones, also from outside Europe, from the United States, Canada or Mexico to Hong Kong or Lebanon.

We had the honor to have the presence of:

  • Mr. Margaritis Schinas – Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for coordinating the European Union Immigration and Asylum Pact (September 2020)
  • Mr. Antonio Vitorino – Director-General of IOM (United Nations International Organization for Migration).
  • Mr. Carlos Sanvee – Secretary General of the YMCA World,


The YMCA Thessaloniki was very present at the conference, not only for the presentation of Dolores Tarrafeta entitled “Best Practices with integration programs for Refugees”, but also for the kind words that Mr. Schinas dedicated to us, remembering his experience in the summer camps. In addition, one of the 5 videos that was shown was about employees from the YMCA Thessaloniki that have the status of refugees, emphasizing the necessary integration in the workplace.

There was a great exchange of ideas, good practices and a lot of inspiration to keep working harder than ever in the pursuit of social justice.

From here we want to thank Ed Eggink, Juan Simoes, Marius Pop and the whole team for organizing this conference.