Greece-Turkey Border: Migrants must not be used as a political tool. The EU and Member States must act in solidarity now.

Migration: Greece-Turkey Border

Greece-Turkey Border: Migrants must not be used as a political tool. The EU and Member States must act in solidarity now.
Geneva/Budapest, 3 March 2020 – Women, children and men caught up in the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the land border between Greece and Turkey, in the Greek islands and in the Aegean Sea must not be “used as a political tool”, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned today.

Speaking of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “It is unacceptable that children and families are exposed to tear gas and violence or have to risk their lives in the Aegean Sea. We will not be silent in the face of this dire humanitarian situation, which may become even worse in the next hours and days.”

The IFRC is deeply concerned that thousands of people, including vulnerable children, may suffer the consequences of the recent surge of migrants trying to cross the border between Turkey and Greece. While Governments have the right and responsibility to set migration policies and to control their own borders, steps should be taken to ensure the implementation of such policies do not increase suffering.

“EU Member States should respond in a spirit of solidarity to the recent increase in numbers of people seeking refuge at the EU’s external borders. They must enact their responsibilities in protecting people and saving lives. EU governments cannot turn their backs on Turkey and Greece. Southern European States cannot be left alone. All States have a responsibility to protect people and save lives,” President Rocca said.

“We call on the EU and the national Governments to avoid using migrants as a political tool, to ensure that asylum seekers can apply for international protection, in line with international and EU laws. Access to humanitarian assistance and essential services, including healthcare, ought to be guaranteed for all people, in particular children and other vulnerable groups,” he ended.

::::::

Greece
EU must address migration emergency as Greek islands reach breaking point
Statement 4 Mar 2020
In recent days, the Greek government took a series of harsh measures to push back thousands of asylum seekers and migrants attempting to enter from Turkey. Greece sent military forces to the border, said it would suspend asylum applications, and deport migrants who entered irregularly. One child died and 47 migrants were rescued after their boat capsized off the island of Lesbos, the Greek coastguard said. Separately, video footage released by the Turkish government appears to show members of the Greek coastguard shooting into the water near migrants. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has urged authorities not to use excessive or disproportionate force and is calling for continued resources from other European states.

Stefano Argenziano, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operations coordinator for Greece, gave the following statement calling on the Greek government and other European Union (EU) member states to take immediate action to address the ongoing emergency facing people trapped in horrific conditions:

“It is now almost four years since the EU-Turkey statement traded human lives for political gains.

Once again, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sees that EU member states are willing to deter people from seeking safety at all cost, rather than providing the most basic assistance to men, women and children in need. This deterrence places them in further danger. In recent days, this has culminated with the death of a child, teargassing people at land-borders, and reports of coastguards violently interfering with, instead of helping, boats in distress.

With 40,000 people trapped on the Greek islands, the situation has reached breaking point for asylum seekers and local communities alike who have both been abandoned by European leaders for the sake of the EU-Turkey deal. Consequently, increased tensions have led to riots, roadblocks and attacks on those trying to provide assistance.

People in need on the islands are deprived of critical assistance as MSF teams and others have had to limit the volume of activity due to safety concerns. The Greek Government and the European Union must take immediate action to de-escalate the situation.

The emergency measures announced by the Greek government will have devastating consequences as they remove the right to claim protection and aim to push people fleeing war back to Turkey. This will only lead to more chaos, deaths at sea, escalating violence and a worsening humanitarian disaster.

EU member states must address the real emergency: evacuate people from the islands to EU countries, deliver an asylum system that works, and stop trapping people in horrific conditions.

MSF teams in Lesbos are currently adjusting their activities on daily basis according to the security conditions around Moria and Mytilene. We are committed to staying on Lesbos to ensure that asylum seekers receive the medical and mental healthcare they need.”