Greece makes 3 migrants citizens for their wildfire rescues
ATHENS – The Associated Press
Three migrant fishermen received Greek citizenship on Jan. 2 for helping rescue dozens of people who were forced into the sea by flames from a summer wildfire that caused 100 deaths.
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos hosted a ceremony for Gani Xheka, 35, from Albania and Egyptians Emad El Khaimi, 50, and Mahmoud Ibrahim Musa, 46, both to honor them and for “sending a message to Europe” to counter anti-immigrant sentiment.
The three men pulled people from the water who had fled the out-of-control wildfire at the seaside resort of Mati, east of Athens, by swimming out to sea while having difficulty breathing because of heavy smoke. The trio also guided survivors to a nearby port after the July 23 blaze reached the shore and gutted hundreds of homes.
“In a situation like that, when you are talking about people’s lives, there’s no religion, no black people, no white people. You just have to help people who are in danger,” El Khaimi said after the ceremony.
The death toll from Greece’s worst wildfire in decades included victims who drowned after seeking safety in the sea, as well as people who were trapped inside their homes or along narrow roads.
The decision to grant the three men citizenship was published in Greece’s official government gazette Dec. 21 but formally announced on Jan. 2.
“The three foreign nationals, displaying self-sacrifice and ignoring the dangers, joined Greek fishermen and saved dozens of our fellow citizens,” the decision said.