Refugee crisis: Respect human rights – Fair relocation to Europe!
RLS is a signatory to this petition demanding decent conditions for asylum seekers, relocation from Greece to Europe & no more pushbacks to Turkey!
Sign it here, read the English translation below.
"I showed the camp to journalists who have worked in refugee camps around the world, in Jordan, the Congo, Uganda, Turkey and Bangladesh. Everyone said that Samos was the worst they had ever seen." In recent years, a chilling tragedy is unfolding in Greece.
People whose only "offense" was to try and survive are trapped in inhumane conditions, in violation of many international treaties.
The unique position of Greece at the meeting point of three continents, which contributed to its glorious history, now turns it into a prison guard of Europe ... We are not complicit! #GreeceMustAct #OxiSynenoxoi With this letter to the Ministry of Immigration and the Greek MEPs, We demand decent conditions for asylum seekers - Relocation of refugees from Greece to Europe – An end to deportations to Turkey.
1) We ask for reception facilities with decent conditions for asylum seekers: immediate removal from existing hotspots, respect for human rights in all facilities used. High priority to particularly vulnerable groups. The description of the horror experienced by the "guests" in the Aegean camps could fill many pages. Stacked, in many cases for years, in tents and containers with insufficient food, water, hygiene, healthcare. One container for 8 families and one tent for 10 people in Chios, one toilet for 192 people. Eight thousand people in a structure for 650 in Samos. Sexual violence against women and girls, attacks to LGBT+. Newborns and unaccompanied children. Often the only provision of services is due to self-organization and solidarity.
Over the last year the overcrowding has subsided as asylum seekers are moved inland and hotspots on the islands are scheduled to shut down ... but what will replace them?
The new camps are being prepared in isolated areas and will be closed and fenced. The mainland camps are already beginning to have similar problems to the islands, with walls being built around them. Access of humanitarian organizations is systematically hampered through bureaucratic hurdles.
Of course the situation in hotspots is only one aspect of the refugee issue. At the same time, the percentage of protection applications that are accepted is falling while the waiting time for their examination is increasing dramatically. People whose application is rejected end up in police department cells and Pre-departure Detention Centres – spaces that are often denounced as horrific and dangerous.
As for those who have been granted asylum, in the last year their support and integration structures have been hurt, preparing a new wave of homeless people in Greek cities!
Find more information at the end of the text.
2) We request the relocation of asylum seekers and refugees from Greece to Europe, starting immediately with the numerous entities that have offered their hospitality. More than 500 municipalities and local entities across Europe have offered to host asylum seekers and refugees. It is currently estimated that tens of thousands of people could be relocated immediately ... if this offer was not blocked by EU decisions.
For five years now, the EU agreement with Greece has trapped the refugees and created an absurd impasse for the country. At the same time, a political effort is being made to present this situation as expressing European citizens. But is that so?
Our organization, Europe Must Act, is one of the movements formed precisely for European societies to take their share of responsibility. So far it has been active in dozens of cities across Europe, and it is not the only such movement: on the Europe Welcomes site you can see the overall picture of relocation offers.
3) No more pushbacks! Removal of Turkey from the list of safe third countries. Europe should not be turned into a fortress under the pretext of the developments in Afghanistan. The nightmare landscape of the refugee issue has one aspect which borders the criminal: the actions to prevent refugees from reaching Greek territory.
Pushbacks – placement and abandonment of people on rafts mid-sea. Military border guard. Return of refugees to war zones. Reports of theft, violence and sexual abuse by the "watchmen". Persecution for saving lives.
The highlight: Turkey, which has long been a target of the international community for its troubled relation with human rights, is declared a "safe third country" in June ’21. A move which formally relieves Greece of the obligation to host those who have passed through Turkey. It should be noted that Turkey has signed the Geneva Convention only for those refugees who are ... Europeans.
Adding to the impasse are the rapid developments in Afghanistan. At a time when the planet is watching people risk their lives to leave their country, the Greek government (and through it the European ones) cares about how they will not approach ... obviously addressing whoever considers this more important than human rights and international conventions.
The refugee issue in Greece is one of the aspects of a complex scenario that needs solutions on many levels. But we will not watch indifferently as lives are put on hold, people are lost at sea and politicians put on a show for the most obscurantist among their constituents.
This is not the Greece we want – This is not the Europe we want!
Some facts: - The hotspots started operating in 2016 as a “temporary and exceptional measure”, after the EU-Turkey Joint Declaration which obliges Greece to geographically isolate all refugees arriving at the Aegean islands. The Dublin Agreement also stipulates that the first EU country where a refugee enters is responsible for whether he or she will be granted asylum.
- Since March ’20 and until today Turkey does not accept the return of refugees using the pandemic as a scapegoat. As a result, those whose application is rejected are kept in detention.
- More than 600 refugees have lost their lives in the Aegean in the last seven years. Unofficial estimations are much higher than the recorded numbers. - Many international entities and humanitarian organizations have denounced the living conditions in the refugee camps, from the Council against Torture of the Europe Committee to Amnesty International. - The conditions in the hotspots violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention on Refugees, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. They also meet all five UN criteria for slums.
- The population at the camps comprises roughly 40% men, 20% women and 405 children. - In March '20, more than 38,000 people were in the island camps. Their capacity is 6 thousand. - Since then the numbers have decreased: in September '21 there were 5 thousand people on the islands. The decrease is due to transfer to mainland camps, housing programs and an increased number of rejections of asylum applications. But also to the deportations and pushbacks of those who try to reach Greece. - Mainland camps are beginning to fill up, while EU-funded walls are being built around them. At Ritsona, Malakasa and Diavata, the walls have already been erected. - The "Reception and Identification Centers", as is the official name of the hotspots, are replaced by the "Closed Controlled Structures", walled and with restrictions on entry and exit. The first one operates since mid-September in an isolated area of Samos. In Chios, Leros and Kos, work is being done on the existing centers for the time being. In Lesvos, building is planned in an isolated spot next to a landfill. - A recent one among the many chilling statements by government officials was made in July by the secretary general of the Reception of Asylum Seekers: "The new structure of Samos is expected to act as a deterrent to new arrivals on the island." - After the fire at the Moria hotspot in September '20, the residents were transferred to an extension of the Kara Tepe camp. In order to have access to it, humanitarian organizations sign a confidentiality clause – they are not allowed to talk about the conditions inside it. - Asylum application procedures have been systematically hampered since early ’20. At the moment, unaccompanied children wait for months for an appointment. For adults the situation is worse. - At the same time, the mechanisms for supporting and housing those who have been granted asylum are deteriorating, mainly through the imposition of excessive demands. This is starting to lead to a new wave of homeless in urban centers.
This is not the Greece we want – This is not the Europe we want!
Europe Must Act: “Aegean Grassroots Report”
Samos Volunteers: “A Crime of Survival”
UNHCR: Operational Data Portal
Γενική Γραμματεία Ενημέρωσης και Επικοινωνίας: Αποτύπωση Εικόνας στα Νησιά, Μάρτιος ’20
European Commission: Memorandum of Understanding
News247: “Κλείνει Οριστικά το ΚΥΤ στο Βαθύ της Σάμου”
Al Jazeera: “Concrete Walls and Drones”
Illustration: George Butler