Call for action to prevent refugees dying in Greece

By agency reporter
October 23, 2017

More than 100 solidarity groups and organisations – including a Christian Peacemaker Teams project on Lesvos – are calling for urgent action from the Greek local and national authorities to prevent more refugees from dying in the cold as winter sets in. They expect more groups and organisations to join them over the next days and weeks.

The collective has also launched a campaign on social media with the hashtag #opentheislands.

Since the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016, the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, and Leros have become places of indefinite confinement. Thousands of women, men, and children are trapped in deplorable and volatile conditions, with many denied access to adequate asylum procedures. Asylum seekers who arrived on the islands in the first days of the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal have been stuck there for almost 19 months.

With the approach of the third winter since large-scale arrivals on the islands began, it is evident that the Greek authorities cannot meet the basic needs and protect the rights of asylum seekers while they remain on the islands. Implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement has been cited by EU and Greek officials as a justification for the containment policy.

Six people who were seeking refuge and protection in Europe died in Moria last winter, their deaths linked to inhumane winter living conditions. Their families are still waiting for answers from the authorities as to how and why their relatives died, and for those who are responsible to be held accountable. On Sunday 8 October, a five-year-old Syrian girl died in Moria. The cause of death is as yet unknown.

The collective of solidarity groups and organisations expresses their shock and outrage at the current situation in the islands as winter sets in. Approximately 5000 people currently live in Moria camp, which has a capacity of around 2000. This includes the seriously ill, the disabled, pregnant women, many children including unaccompanied minors, and survivors of torture and other trauma. Many now live in woefully inadequate summer tents and have to sleep on the floor on thin sleeping mats or blankets.

A refugee in Moria camp said, "Living in Moria makes us all sick. In the morning you wake up in a cramped tent or container between other people. It smells disgustingly and I hate that I cannot wash myself properly. In winter it is freezing. Everything is soaked. When you wake up you cannot move your limbs. And you're covered in ashes. Last winter we burned paper and plastic to stay warm. It is as if we were not human beings."

Campaigners say, "Everybody knows that winter is coming. Seven hundred million Euros have been made available to the Greek authorities to manage the situation. As a collective, we want details as to how and where this money is being spent. We also urgently demand that the several relevant actors in the Greek government, at national and local level, assume and clearly communicate their responsibilities. They must then be held accountable for what will happen to refugees and migrants this winter in Greece.

"Likewise, we condemn all the European governments who have created the EU-Turkey Statement and who put pressure on Greece to implement the EU-Turkey Statement, through the European Commission and other channels. The Statement prioritises maintaining Fortress Europe over all else, trampling roughshod over international human rights law. All European governments share the responsibility for the human rights violations suffered by refugees in Greece today, for those deaths that have already occurred, for those which could follow this winter."

Read the full statement here

* Independent Catholic News https://www.indcatholicnews.com/

[Ekk/6]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.