George Stefanopoulos Coordinator of GFRs Self-Advocacy Team
The Self – Advocacy Team of the Greek Forum of Refugees have on several occasions
remarked on the flaws of the EU – Turkey deal and have foreseen most of the outcomes.
This agreement is another addition on a list of failed policies that are endangering people and violate basic human rights.
It was the 18th of March 2016 when the deal between the EU member states and Turkey was announced. A deal that guaranteed to put a halt to the ever – rising refugee flows through Greece and essentially towards the rest of Europe. Today we are witnessing the final outcomes of this agreement after four years since its implementation.
The EU – Turkey deal managed to trap refugees and migrants on both sides of the border, transforming desperate people into a political tool to be wielded as seen fit by the political powers involved, inevitably leading to the situation we are experiencing today on Europe’s border with Turkey. It follows the logic behind the Dublin regulation of creating buffer states for the sake of the rest of the member states only on a smaller scale; by creating buffer zones within a country in order to keep people at the borders.
In the case of Greece, the deal affected the asylum procedure as well as the proper reception and treatment of the newcomers on every level. It triggered the implementation of the geographical restriction policy, essentially transforming the Greek islands into prisons. People stranded in the islands do not have access to the mainland officially; where a plethora of services exist that they could benefit from and, above all, would otherwise solve the overcrowding issue.
Refugees and migrants have to deal with an understaffed asylum service department, which cannot handle the asylum application numbers forcing people to stay in the camps for prolonged periods of time. This also leads to the overcrowding of the camps and ignite severe reactions from both the refugee population as well as the local one. As for the services provided, they were barely enough to cover the local population’s needs to begin with, let alone the needs of the newcomers, especially on those kind of numbers.
It is evident that we are faced with failed policies; policies that have nothing to do with the “European way of life” and Europe’s commitment of protecting human rights.
We call on all relevant authorities to revise all such procedures and laws and provide an asylum system that falls in line with the European ideals of respecting human dignity and human rights.
It should be the asylum seekers’ right to apply for asylum in a country of their choosing. It is common sense that all the EU member states should share this responsibility equally, rather than creating buffer states; a tactic that brings darker periods of time in mind.
These regulations are playing with human lives.
It is time that the EU takes the responsibility that lies with it and act in accordance with the ideals that it defends and promotes.