Kimora Lee Simmons and Family Join Intimate Health Nonprofit The Unmentionables to Aid Refugees in Greece

Athens, Greece: In an impassioned show of support for today’s World Refugee Day, fashion designer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Kimora Lee Simmons and her family are on the ground in Greece with international nonprofit The Unmentionables working with refugees, listening to their stories and learning what can be done to help this vulnerable population. In April of this year, Simmons was named Global Ambassador to The Unmentionables, and together with her family she is helping protect refugees from exploitation and trafficking. Coupled with her business acumen and passion for empowering others, she has emerged as a powerful voice for human rights via her desire to bring awareness to the annual World Refugee Day on Wednesday, June 20th.

Simmons and her family are taking a hands-on approach to giving, dedicating time this summer to migrant and refugee families on behalf of The Unmentionables, who provide training, supplies and education to the refugee community in Greece. Through funds raised on 2017’s Giving Tuesday and a generous personal donation from Simmons, a new resource center for refugees in Athens, Greece was opened earlier this year. Simmons and her family will work from the center and along the migrant path, providing safe and consistent access to basic, important intimate health products as well as sexual health and reproductive education and care to refugees.

According to the International Rescue Committee, Greece, a popular European entry point to migrants escaping perilous conditions in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, currently hosts approximately 50,000 refugees. Earlier this year, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), expressed grave concerns for the safety of women and children in what are known as “hotspots” on Greece’s islands -- specifically focusing on overcrowding and lack of hygiene and sanitation. Five camps on Greek islands close to the Turkish coast have surpassed double their capacity as reported by Public Radio International in May 2018.

UNICEF warned that in 2017, over 1,800 unaccompanied children were without proper shelter and care in Greece alone. The number of children arriving separated from their families is unprecedented, and currently more than 75% of migrant and refugee children trying to reach Europe via the Central Mediterranean route face appalling levels of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

EU border agency, Frontex, has reported that human trafficking has been on the rise over the past few years (April 2018, ANSA). Human trafficking is prevalent for refugees, especially on the Central Mediterranean route according to an IOM report— 76% of male and 67% of female respondents answered “yes” to at least one of four human trafficking indicators. The indicators include experience of physical violence, work without payment and imprisonment. 80% of males and 66% of females experienced physical violence of any sort during their journey, while 64% of male and 56% of female were held against their will (2017, IOM).

Trafficking and sexual exploitation is not just limited to girls. Although adolescent boys comprise a substantial majority of the population of unaccompanied and separated children, they are rarely the focus of policy discussions and are consistently left out of gender-based violence prevention and response efforts (2018, PLoS Med). The majority of unaccompanied minors in Greece particularly are boys between ages 14-17, stranded and awaiting decisions on asylum and processing, without adequate shelter or ways to generate income. As a result of increasingly dire circumstances, sexual exploitation of minors is rapidly increasing everywhere from encampments to public spaces, where young boys desperate to survive are exploited by older men for payment.

“It’s incredibly important to me to expose this global crisis and bring attention to the level of deep, humanitarian need that exists to support persecuted people around the world,” comments Simmons. “I am deeply grateful to support World Refugee Day and that I can expose my own children to opportunities to make true, hands-on impact for the greater good. There are so many strife-torn families and separated children that need our collective protection as fellow humans to ensure their safety – how can we turn a blind eye? These kids look a lot like mine – they are young, hopeful, beautiful souls.”

World Refugee Day, founded by the UN and held annually every June 20th, was designed to spotlight the plight of migrant refugees fleeing for their lives. A staggering 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home, and among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Nearly 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution across our world (UNHCR).

Simmons’ partnership with The Unmentionables initially began in 2017, and her role in the organization has steadily grown. She will further her philanthropic commitment to this cause throughout the year, dedicating fundraising efforts to further the impact of the humanitarian global aid The Unmentionables provides to those most in need. Along with her unwavering commitment, Simmons will continue to advocate for refugees at risk of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Daniel Berberi