Posted on October 18, 2015
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced Sunday that he and five other members of Congress just wrapped up a visit to Italy and Greece after receiving a series of in-country briefings on the humanitarian crisis Europe is facing from refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Alexander was joined on the trip by U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).
Europe is currently facing the largest influx of refugees and migrants since the end of Word War II. More than 600,000 migrants have come to Europe to this point in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration, and have been arriving by boat to Italy, and by boat and land in Greece. Migrants are also arriving by land in Hungary and other countries in Eastern Europe.
During their trip, the lawmakers met with U.S. troops, military leaders, political leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations to review regional issues and the refugee and migrant crisis. In Italy, the lawmakers were briefed by U.S. military officials from the European and African commands on the migrant and refugee crisis and military and diplomatic relations in the region, as well as efforts related to addressing the Ebola crisis, the search for Joseph Kony, and addressing extremist groups operating in Africa such as Boko Haram. In Greece, the lawmakers welcomed the U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill to port and were briefed on efforts to protect and promote U.S. interests in the Mediterranean region.
In addition to visiting with soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines from their respective states, the Members met with Monsignor Florian Kolfhaus, Vatican Director for North America; Paolo Gentiloni, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs; Nikolaos Pappas, Greece Minister of State; Panos Kammenos, Greece Minister of Defense; representatives of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and the International Organization for Migration in both countries; and Doctors of the World in Greece.
The delegation returned to Washington, D.C., on Sunday.