Greece #opentheislands campaign update
18 December 2017
Brussels, 18 December 2017 – JRS Europe, in collaboration with JRS Greece and 11 human rights and humanitarian organizations, launched a campaign on 1 December calling on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to transfer 7,500 people to the mainland before the official start of winter and to end the containment policy on the Greek islands. Our voices are being heard: the Greek Government declared it intends to transfer 5,000 people from the Greek islands to the mainland before 21 December. 1,750 asylum seekers were transferred to the mainland by 11 December. But, more than 10,000 asylum seekers are still trapped on the Greek islands in appalling conditions.
Inhuman conditions on the islands
The so-called EU-Turkey deal foresees that Turkey will take back migrants who arrive from Turkey irregularly to Greece. For the time being Turkey only accepts to do so in the case of asylum-seekers who are on the islands. As a direct result of this, the camps on the islands of Lesvos, Samos and Chíos are dangerously overcrowded. Women, men and children are sleeping in summer tents despite the cold and the rain, with high risks for their physical and mental health., Hundreds of children on the islands have no access to education.
“I live in a tent with 12 other people. I have asthma and I cannot see a doctor. Now it is raining, and it is difficult to find a dry place to sleep. We sleep on the ground! There is no electricity. I am anxious all the time. I am alone, I am really lost. There are too many fights in the camp. I need protection, to find a safe and dry place. I need to be listened to”, describes an asylum seeker from Cameroon living in Moria.
NGO Roadmap for more fair and human policies
JRS Greece has collaborated in a joint NGO roadmap for more fair and humane policies ‘Transitioning to a government-run refugee and migrant response in Greece’. The document provides recommendations for the Greek Government, EU leaders and the UN to address the persistent gaps in services, access to asylum and opportunities for refugees to integrate with Greek society.
“As we are transitioning to a government-run refugee and migrant response, we urge the Greek Government to establish a strategic plan in order to effectively lead and coordinate the different actors. The EU and its member states should support the Government and ensure the protection of the rights of refugees. For the past two years, many steps have been taken, many lessons learned. Let us share this knowledge and experience for the improvement of refugees’ lives. We all share the same goal and we have to work together to achieve it,” said JRS Greece advocacy and communications officer, Veronica Paikou.
Among others, the NGO coalition calls on the Greek government to establish a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers to the mainland as soon as reception centres reach their capacity. They also call all EU Member States to recognise their legal and moral responsibility to protect refugees and to relocate the most vulnerable people.
Despite the transfer of some of the asylum seekers to the Greek mainland, we still need to keep the pressure on the European and Greek governments to make sure all asylum seekers arriving in Greece receive a human and dignified reception. Join our campaign on social media and call our political leaders to #opentheislands.
For more information: https://www.hrw.org/opentheislands
“I live in a tent with 12 other people. I have asthma and I cannot see a doctor. Now it is raining, and it is difficult to find a dry place to sleep. We sleep on the ground! There is no electricity. I am anxious all the time. I am alone, I am really lost. There are too many fights in the camp. I need protection, to find a safe and dry place. I need to be listened to”