Greek Island Mayors Join Amnesty in Pleading for Freezing Migrants
18:25 24.01.2017Get short URL
The mayors have reacted to reports of migrants being held in camps which are unfit for the winter, living in freezing temperatures in overcrowded camps with no hot water. Many are being held on the islands pending return — under the EU-Turkey migrant deal — to Turkey as “irregular migrants,” being refused asylum. However, the “temporary” accommodation has become long-term.
“Amnesty International has launched a petition to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, asking him to urgently engage with European governments and change the policy of keeping people stranded in awful conditions on the Greek islands with the sole purpose of trying to implement the EU-Turkey deal,” Iverna McGowan, Head of European Institutions Office and Advocacy Director told Sputnik.
“Dimitris Avramopoulos European Commissioner for Migration has said that some vulnerable people are being moved, but Amnesty and other international organizations have found that, firstly, even the vulnerable groups are not being moved sufficiently quickly because there’s not an adequate method to identify vulnerable groups.”
“Secondly, at this stage, so many months onwards with abnormally cold conditions on the Greek islands, the humanitarian imperative now has to take over and we would fully back any calls to move people urgently from the Greek islands to mainland Greece,” she told Sputnik.
The EU-Turkey migrant deal has attracted criticism over its policy of returning migrants refused asylum at centers in Greece to Turkey in return — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated to EU member states.
However, many human rights groups have protested that the conditions in Turkish refugee camps do not match international standards under the Geneva Convention. The UNHCR has recently admitted that it does not have full access to those sent back from Greece, throwing into doubt the legality of returning migrants to places which are deemed unsafe.
© REUTERS/ Alkis Konstantinidis
Syrian refugee Walaa, 26, sits inside her family’s tent at the Souda municipality-run camp on the island of Chios, Greece, September 7, 2016.
“At this stage, it’s very clear to Amnesty International that the sole reason that people are being stranded on those islands for so many months is on the false notion that they can be quickly returned to Turkey. This is months later. It hasn’t happened. Men, women and children are in dire circumstances and the humanitarian imperative now has to take the front line and something has to be done urgently to alleviate the human suffering on the Greek islands,” McGowan told Sputnik.