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Τerre des hommes Hellas and partners challenge the EU-Turkey deal on its third anniversary for leading to short-sighted and dangerous migration policies

2019-03-14

Τerre des hommes Hellas and partners challenge the EU-Turkey deal on its third anniversary for leading to short-sighted and dangerous migration policies

Athens, 14 March - The European Union's deal with Turkey to control migration and return "irregular" migrants has led to policies and practices in Greece that are short-sighted, unsustainable, ineffective and dangerous, many NGOs – among them Terre des hommes in Greece – say on the deal's third anniversary.

In an open letter to European leaders, Terre des hommes Hellas and other NGOs say that as many as 20,000 people have been stranded in unsafe, unhygienic and inhumane conditions in EU camps at any given time. 

Currently, around 12,000 people – twice the maximum capacity – have been forced to spend this winter in overcrowded reception and identification centres, sleeping in unheated tents or containers with limited access to running water and electricity. They are exposed to violence, harassment and exploitation, without proper security or protection. 

These terrible conditions are due to the European policy of trapping asylum seekers in EU "hotspots" in the Greek islands, rather than hosting them in locations on the European mainland, the groups say.

As a result, while the number of asylum applications in Europe has dropped, asylum applications in Greece and on the islands have increased significantly over the last three years. In Lesbos, the number of asylum applications more than tripled to over 17,000 in 2018.

"European leaders are neglecting their responsibility to protect people fleeing war and persecution. The EU member states should expand safe and regular routes into Europe to prevent deaths at sea, overcrowding on the islands, dependence on smugglers and the increasing chances of highly vulnerable people falling prey to human traffickers" said Jezerca Tigani, Terre des hommes’ Head of Southern Europe Delegation.

"There is no excuse for thousands of vulnerable people trapped in appalling conditions while awaiting the outcome of their asylum requests. The Greek Government should create more space to accommodate these people in the mainland. Also, an efficient mechanism is needed to signal when full capacity in a specific site on the islands has been reached" said Melina Spathari, Advocacy Manager of Terre des hommes Hellas.

Terre des hommes Hellas and other NGOs are calling on European Union leaders to: 

  • agree urgently on fair and sustainable arrangements for sharing responsibility for asylum seekers arriving in Europe, that will ensure member states’ ability to provide decent and dignified conditions. 
  • urge Greece to immediately suspend the restriction of movement that traps asylum seekers to the Greek islands in squalid and dangerous conditions, putting unfair pressure on the islanders.
  • ensure Greece spends the available EU funding on essential services such as medical and legal services.
  • support the planning of a fair and efficient asylum system and a long term and sustainable reception and integration plan for refugees in Greece.

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For interviews and information, directly contact:

Melina Spathari, Advocacy and Communications, Terre des hommes Hellas,

mob: +306972070223, email: melina.spathari@tdh.ch

Photo credit: Tdh Hellas