Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Aid agencies suspending operations in Greece

  • Around 12,000 people are stuck in squalor at the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek side of the border with Macedonia (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

An increasing number of aid agencies in Greece are partially suspending operations in protest at the conditions of detained and stranded migrants seeking asylum.

The move follows the launch of an EU-Turkey deal to stem the flow of irregular migration to the Greek islands on Sunday (20 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The plan hinges on rapidly returning smuggled migrants back to Turkey in the hope of discouraging others from taking a similar journey.

But Human Rights Watch on Thursday (24 March) said a humanitarian crisis was unfolding at the Athens port of Piraeus, where thousands of asylum seekers and migrants are stranded.

“The suffering in Piraeus is a direct consequence of Europe’s failure to respond in a legal and compassionate way to the crisis on its shores," said Eva Cosse, Greece specialist at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

The rights watchdog estimates around 5,000 men, women, and children are at the port.

There are reports of fights between Afghan and Syrian men and mounting fears of sexual harassment and violence against women and children.

“Here there is no security. I take my children with me wherever I go," said one 27 year-old Syrian woman.

Similar complaints were heard elsewhere with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) earlier this week saying the so-called hotspots where arrivals are screened and registered on the Greek islands have turned into detention centres.

The UNHCR has since refused to transport people to the centres, noting Greece is not prepared to handle the case loads under the EU-Turkey deal.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children have also pulled out.

"We took the extremely difficult decision to end our activities in Moria (on Lesbos) because continuing to work inside would make us complicit in a system we consider to be both unfair and inhumane," said Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF's head of mission in Greece.

Amnesty International accused Turkey of forcibly returning around 30 asylum seekers to Afghanistan "just hours after the European Union-Turkey refugee deal came into force".

Migrants 'safe in Turkey'

Turkey has in the past rejected allegations that it forcibly returns asylum seekers, and says it is now in the process of negotiating a readmission agreement with Afghanistan.

"We don't push these people back that is why there are safe in Turkey right now," Turkey's ambassador to the EU Selim Yenel told this website on Monday (21 March).

Turkey hosts some 2.7 million Syrian refugees and hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis.

Yenel noted that Syrians with a temporary asylum status are entitled to benefits, like healthcare, and will also be able to work.

He said that while Afghans and Iraqis are not entitled to employment in Turkey, they are protected.

He noted complaints about the rights of Afghans and Iraqis in Turkey only began to surface late last year.

"Where were all these NGOs asking about the rights of the Iraqis and the Afghans, they weren't doing it then, and now they are asking for it when they return?" Yenel said.

Interview

Turkey will not give in to EU on refugee laws

Turkey will not change its laws to appease EU demands to increase protection of asylum seekers and will refuse any oversight on how it applies its rules, its EU ambassador says.

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

Smuggled migrants to leave Greece from Sunday onward

EU-Turkey accord to see rejected asylum applicants sent back to Turkey and an equal number of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the EU. Much will depend on Greece's capacity to deliver.

Greece begins migrant deportations to Turkey

Greece has started sending back migrants to Turkey under the EU deal. The German interior minister suggests similar agreements might be necessary in northern Africa.

News in Brief

  1. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  2. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  3. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  4. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  5. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  6. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  7. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions
  8. EU Commission to increase use of open-source software

Analysis

'Sponsored returns' may shuffle failed asylum seekers around EU

The European Commission is banking on cooperation and coordination among EU states to help makes its new migration and asylum pact viable. But its plan is already being greeted with suspicion by more hardline anti-migrant countries like Austria and Hungary.

Analysis

Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds

A new five-day screening of migrants at Europe's external borders is meant to expedite people into either 'asylum' or 'return' tracks. The time-limit is wishful thinking and one that could leave people stranded in make-shift camps or even ghettos.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us