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DRC urges Greece and the EU to protect people and safeguard the right to asylum

The heightened tensions and the escalation of violence put men, women and children at risk and is testimony to the need for a new direction on asylum and migration in the EU.
 
 

05.03.20

In the last few days we have witnessed a deeply worrying situation in Greece marked by violence and heightened tensions. As a response to asylum seekers and migrants’ attempts to cross the Greek borders with Turkey, Greek authorities announced the tightening of border controls to the maximum level and the temporary one-month suspension of asylum applications. They also initiated asylum seekers’ imprisonment for the sole reason of irregular entry into the EU and the immediate return of undocumented migrants to their country of origin in their efforts to fight back what they have described as an “extraordinary and asymmetrical threat.” To this end, Greece has the support of the European oficcials' and the Justice and Home Affairs Council urgently convened states on March 4th.

At the same time, thousands of vulnerable people and families are stranded at the buffer zone between the two countries without access to assistance and asylum procedures while violence is used to send out the message that the border is not open. On the Aegean islands, these days were marked by some locals’ efforts to prevent people from docking or reaching the reception and identification centers, attacks on aid workers and journalists, and the death of a child at sea.

The heightened tensions and the escalation of violence put men, women and children at risk and is testimony to the need for a new direction on asylum and migration in the EU. A new direction that respects legal obligations to provide protection and works towards sustainable solutions, rather than a continuation of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach that has characterized the past four years EU response.

While the situation at the Greek-Turkish borders are deeply concerning, we must not lose sight of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Idlib, where hundreds of thousands are fleeing towards the sealed Turkish border.

We call on Greece to urgently provide protection for vulnerable people stranded at the border and to ensure that the right to seek asylum is safeguarded in accordance with EU and international refugee law, while respecting the principle of non-refoulement.

We call on the European institutions to support Greece and other EU Member States at the EU’s external borders to receive people seeking protection in a dignified manner, to work towards establishing  a mechanism for responsibility sharing among  EU Member States, and to contribute to de-escalating the crisis in Idlib.