The EU-Turkey Statement and the Greek Hotspots – A Failed European Pilot Project in Refugee Policy
The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament recently published a study focusing on the detrimental impact that the EU-Turkey Statement and the implementation of the “hotspot approach” in Greece is having on the rights of refugees and migrants arriving. The study finds that the current procedures and practices for processing asylum applications on the Greek islands under the EU-Turkey statement violate the applicants’ right to asylum and due process.
Via Greek Reporter – The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency, is reporting that more than 10,000 migrants left voluntarily from Greece between June 2016 and April this year.
Among the returnees, almost 8,380 were men and 2,125 were women. The IOM says special assistance was provided to 77 unaccompanied migrant children, helping them to reunite with their families.
The voluntary returns saw people go back to their homes in 84 countries and territories over a 20-month period through a program funded by the EU and Greece.
Via Deutsche Welle – Syrians granted limited asylum but denied the right to fetch relatives are departing Germany for Turkey by using smugglers, say German media. The cases, if confirmed, bizarrely reverse the “Balkan route” drama of 2015.
The New Arab published a story on February 2nd on IOM ‘voluntary return programme’: “A scheme to repatriate refugees whose asylum bids have been rejected amounts to bullying and bribing desperate people to return to desperate situations, reports Matt Broomfield.” Valeria Hänsel also wrote on that same issue for HarekAct two weeks back.
Via The New Arab– A “voluntary” returns programme being heavily marketed to refugees is leaving them stranded in inhumane conditions in Greek and Turkish jails for months at a time, and facing imprisonment and torture once they return to their home countries – if they are ever able to get there at all.
The number of people who agree to “voluntary” return from Greece to their country of origin with the programme of “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration” of the “International Organization for Migration” (IOM) is significantly higher than the number of deportations to Turkey since the EU-Turkey statement.
What happens to migrants who sign up for the IOM return programme during the process and after the return to their home countries? Why do asylum seekers agree to leave Europe again?
The observation of several cases reveals that many migrants face detention and serious physical and mental harm during and after their participation in the programme of “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration”.
For 14 days, refugee activist Arash Hampay has refused food. On the Greek island of Lesvos, he sits on the central square of the town Mytilini surrounded by shops, cafés and tourists, presenting a sign stating “Refugees are not Criminals”.
He is exhausted but determined to continue his hunger strike until the end. His open statement leaves no doubt:
“We shall continue our hunger strike until the prisoners in Moria camp are released, regardless of the consequences for us. A life without freedom is worthless and meaningless for us. You must release the refugees or we shall end our lives in front of your eyes and the people’s eyes. We are waiting for you. The people are waiting for you. You must free us or else be responsible for our death. We will keep waiting until the last drop of life falls from our bodies.”