A statement by MEPs from GUE/NGL, S&D & Greens/EFA on the Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) and Human Rights subcommittee (DROI) in the European Parliament
The escalating situation in Lesvos has, unfortunately, taken an even more horrific turn overnight with a fire that raged through the camp, leaving 13,000 people on the streets with nowhere to go.
Both the asylum seekers and the local population have been suffering for too long from the policy of containing asylum seekers in overcrowded camps on Greek islands
, in reality, turning them into prisons while ignoring the real issue. A Europe which still only wants to pay so that people in need of protection, people fleeing wars and poverty, will stay as far away as possible. A Europe that wants Greece and other frontline member states to serve as its ‘shields’.
The current pandemic, and the additional challenges it brings forward, only add to the horrific situation. But here again, the policy choices and the failures, of the Greek government and the EU, have been adding to the problem instead of solving it: instead of dealing with the issue from a public health perspective, the choice was to focus on the migration status of the persons in the hotspots, with their detention being the main element of the policies.
Now that everything has been burnt and destroyed, people are more abandoned and desperate than before, with everybody – locals and asylum seekers – even more exposed to the threat of the pandemic, the Greek government is unable to handle the situation and the EU is only offering, once again, money and only for the extremely vulnerable. Yes, we all really want the 400 unaccompanied minors to be moved to the mainland. It should have taken place months ago.
But is this enough?
What we really want, what is really necessary and it is high time that this has happened, is to first stop the hypocrisy and to acknowledge the consequences of our policy choices. Both on EU and on Greek level. For as long as we allow persons in need to be instrumentalised, for as long as we want the frontline member states to act as ‘shields’ and to serve as detention centres, then we will face situations like this one. Situations where our humanity and our values are lost, situations for which we are responsible. Situations that cannot and should not be dealt with by giving away some extra money every time and the EU Commission must realise this!
And what we really need are immediate actions and a swift change of policies:
Immediate actions on the imminent and the longer term needs to face the pandemic – both for the asylum seekers and the local population. Actions that would put the public health perspective in focus and will be humane for all. Actions that would mean the immediate transfer of asylum seekers to proper shelter in the mainland and, mainly, in the rest of the EU member states. Such actions should be for all asylum seekers and refugees currently in Greece. Turning a blind eye until the next fire is not a solution.
Finally, what Europe has to do now, even if it is so late, is to adopt and implement a mandatory and automatic redistribution mechanism of asylum seekers. Europe must finally function under the principles of real solidarity. Solidarity with its member states, solidarity with the local communities, solidarity with the people in need.
As a matter of urgency and in view of a long-term solution, we call for the following immediate emergency measures:
– Unaccompanied children, families and single women have to be evacuated as a priority and put into safe places in the mainland before being transferred as soon as possible to other EU member states;
– People should not be brought to detentions centres but be moved to safe, open shelters on the mainland and the EU should ensure that they are transferred to the rest of the member states as an urgent sign of solidarity towards the people and to Greece;
– An investigation into the roots causes of how this could happen should be launched;
– Asylum seekers should be protected from violent attacks;
– Civil society organisations should be able to have access to the people in need, notably to provide emergency health care;
Kostas Arvanitis, GUE/NGL
Pernando Barrena, GUE/NGL
Pietro Bartolo, S&D
Malin Björk, GUE/NGL
Clare Daly, GUE/NGL
Cornelia Ernst, GUE/NGL
Dietmar Köster, S&D
Stelios Kouloglou, GUE/NGL
Pierfrancesco Majorino, S&D
Marisa Matias, GUE/NGL
Anne-Sophie Pelletier, GUE/NGL
Manu Pineda, GUE/NGL
Massimiliano Smeriglio, S&D
Tineke Strik, Greens/EFA
Miguel Urban, GUE/NGL
Bettina Vollath, S&D
Sylvia Spurek, S&D