Five years ago, today, European leaders announced the EU-Turkey deal. Every single day since then, families have been trapped in 'hotspots' on the Greek islands, their lives put on hold.
The EU and Greece created these 'hotspots' following the EU-Turkey deal. The EU's aim to keep asylum-seekers on the Greek islands was to speed up their return to Turkey has resulted in appalling living conditions, violent border control practices and immense delays in asylum procedures. Despite overwhelming evidence of these failed policies, the EU migration pact seeks to copy this approach.
Today, Oxfam joins eight prominent NGOs calling on EU decision-makers to learn from past failures and to make urgent changes to the EU migration pact and plans to build new reception centres on the Greek Islands.
Raphael Shilhav, Oxfam EU migration expert said:
"In the five years since the announcement of the EU-Turkey deal, news from the Greek islands has gone from bad to worse. The EU's sustained push to block refugees on their path to safety has resulted in a humanitarian crisis with people forced to live in dehumanising conditions, sleeping in unheated tents or containers with limited access to running water and electricity. Women, in particular, tell us they do not feel safe, and that they are exposed to violence, harassment and exploitation.
European decision-makers need to open their eyes to the reality on the Greek islands and deliver on their obligations to protect human rights. Instead of duplicating failed policies across Europe, they must guarantee the safety and dignity of refugees and other migrants."
In their joint statement, NGOs demand the EU and its member states to ensure:
1. No one is detained simply for seeking asylum: the new plans for reception centres on the Greek islands are akin to a detention-like facility. This is not suitable for people seeking safety. The proposal also fails to take into consideration the specific needs of people, particularly women and girls, who arrive to Europe following long and perilous journeys.
2. Asylum seekers should be able to live in dignified conditions: the EU cannot circumvent its own human rights obligations through the creation of a 'pre-entry phase' where EU asylum law does not fully apply. Asylum-seekers entering Europe must be protected by EU and national laws - no exceptions.
3. Asylum seekers have access to legal assistance and support: the asylum process is complicated and asylum seekers must not be cut off from information and legal aid from NGOs and the UNHCR. The EU's attempt to speed up asylum procedures through accelerated 'border procedures' side-lines these organisations, and infringes on the rights of asylum seekers.
4. There is effective independent oversight: reception centres cannot be closed to outside scrutiny. The EU and member states must allow for external monitoring and reporting by parliamentarians and NGOs, and put in place clear, independent and effective monitoring and complaint mechanisms.