[18/03/2020, 11:00 GMT]
For Immediate Release
Aegean Islands, Greece, 18-03-2020, 11:00 (GMT) - The campaign group Europe Must Act is commencing 10 Days of Activism to mark the 4 year anniversary of the EU-Turkey Statement. This follows an Open Letter signed by 140+ NGOs, 63,000+ individuals and 10 MEPs, demanding the immediate decongestion of the Aegean Islands. The 10 Day initiative focuses on digital activism, responding to measures in place across Europe restricting public gatherings.
The campaign group Europe Must Act launches 10 Days of Activism on 4 year anniversary of EU-Turkey Statement
Conditions remain critical on the Aegean Islands
The spread of coronavirus in refugee camps will trigger a health crisis
The 10 Days of Activism will last until the EU Council Meeting on 26th and 27th March, at which point, Europe Must Act will hand over its petition and Open Letter calling for a new and humane policy on migration to Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel, and European Heads of State. Over 10 days, activists are posting photos according to the campaign’s daily theme and linked to the problems experienced by refugees fleeing their countries and arriving in Greece. The objective of the photos is to underline the relative privilege of European citizens’ rights and how the EU denies even the most basic human rights to refugees.
“All countries in Europe must shoulder the burden currently resting on Greece,” says Jacob Warn, Coordinator of Action for Education in the Aegean. “After years of overcrowding and chronically slow asylum processes, now the added threat of coronavirus will trigger a massive loss of life unless European governments act decisively.”
Since the EU-Turkey Statement came into effect on 18th March 2016, tens of thousands of asylum seekers have endured dire conditions in hotspot camps on the Aegean Islands. At present, over 42,000 asylum seekers reside in the Island camps - 34% of whom are children - built with capacity for just 6,178.
Earlier this month, an escalating political crisis on the Aegean Islands and on the land border at Evros saw thousands of migrants attempting to cross into Europe. In response, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced emergency measures to suspend asylum applications for 1 month. Since then, hundreds of newly-arrived asylum seekers are being kept in de facto detention facilities. Human rights groups are concerned that Greece’s decision to pause new asylum requests is a breach of international humanitarian law. Humanitarian NGOs working on the islands have also been targeted. On Lesvos, NGOs including Medecins sans Frontieres have been forced to suspend their operations temporarily following violence directed against aid workers. A huge fire destroyed the community centre, One Happy Family. On Samos, NGO cars and apartments have been attacked. On Chios, a major warehouse storing emergency aid was burnt, while the camp itself remains inaccessible following days of protests by local Greek residents.
In recent days, the spread of coronavirus has sparked fears that its arrival in the Island camps would trigger a health catastrophe. As the number of confirmed cases in Greece goes up, new measures have been put in place aiming to restrict the movement of asylum seekers in towns. Yet without adequate healthcare available in the camps, such restrictions are not a viable solution. Local hospitals do not have adequate facilities, whilst the combination of underlying health complications amongst refugee communities and the lack of hygiene facilities in camps would accelerate any spread of the virus. Last week, MSF called for the immediate evacuation of the islands, with other groups demanding further measures on the part of the Greek government to close the islands to incoming traffic from the mainland and Turkey.
“After 5 years of neglectful policy, Europe must act according to its values to defend the human rights of refugees,” says Matthias Mertens, Campaign Coordinator of Europe Must Act. “Greece is not a ‘shield’, as the European President claimed at a recent press conference, but a place of law and safe passage. We need action, not hollow and coldhearted analogies.”
Further comments available.
Contact and Key Links
Matthias Mertens, Campaign Communication Coordinator, Europe Must Act
Jacob Warn, Programme Coordinator, Action for Education
firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 7515 110 657 / +30 6944 205 278
www.europemustact.org (Campaign Group website)
www.europemustact.org/10days (10 Days of Activism website)
www.facebook.com/events/3611434338897920/ - Facebook event / 10 Days of Activism