"A Human Tsunami" - Greek Minister addresses European Committee in Brussels

MEPs discuss the future of the EU-Turkey Statement in Brussels

6th November 2019

Yesterday, MEPs gathered in the European Parliament to discuss the EU-Turkey Statement and the crisis on the Aegean Islands.

Greek Minster addresses MEPs

Michalis Chrisochoidis - Greek Minister for Citizen' Protection

They were joined by Michalis Chrisochoidis, the Greek Minister for Citizens’ Protection, along with representatives from MSF, EASO, DG ECHO and the Fundamental Rights Agency.

The Greek Minister addressed the Civil Liberties committee, labelling the current situation ‘a humanitarian crisis’ and claiming that ‘it has become impossible to manage the situation.’ He referred to the increase by 120% in migratory flows since August as causing a ‘human tsunami’, for which he received strong criticism from members of the Parliament.

Mr Chrisochoidis shamed Member States for a lack of response to a letter he circulated that asked each State to take a share of the 4000+ unaccompanied refugee children his country currently supports. He reminded EU leaders that they had a duty to uphold the law even if they wouldn’t act on the principles of solidarity. He claimed ‘the future of European Civilisation…is at stake’.

Criticism over new asylum law

During questioning, the Minister faced harsh criticism for the recent changes to Greece’s asylum law, which puts the police and army in charge of admissibility interviews, restricts access to labour and health markets, and removes PTSD as grounds for vulnerability status.

Later, Mr Chrisochoidis came under fire when asked if the absence of Frontex on Greece’s land border at Evros was linked to allegations of illegal push-backs by the Greek government.

During the second half of the meeting, 4 speakers from DG ECHO, EASO, MSF and the FRA clashed over the future of the EU-Turkey Deal and the effectiveness of the ‘hotspot’ policy. The MEP Ms. Sippel noted that the point of the EU-Turkey Statement was to give the EU time to sort out their own receptions and processing of refugees. She concluded that the EU has failed to use this bought time effectively.

Clare Daly, MEP for Dublin, lambasted her colleagues for failing to face up to the truth of the matter: that the European Parliament is itself responsible for creating these migratory flows and subsequently failing to effectively manage the crisis. She called for a complete revision of the EU-Turkey Statement.

Call for closure of the Aegean hotspots

An impassioned speech by MSF’s Inma Vazquez called for the closure of the hotspots, an end to the policy of containment and the immediate evacuation of the islands. In her speech, she drew attention to the a mental health crisis, parried suggestions that the EU should adopt a quasi-Australian policy and demanded the immediate evacuation of the islands.

MEPs called the situation on the Aegean Islands ‘the most important humanitarian crisis of our time in the European Union.’

Action for Education echoes MSF’s calls for an immediate evacuation of the hotspot camps to safe and dignified alternatives on the Greek mainland and in European third countries.

We call on European Member States to take in their fair share of unaccompanied minors so as to uphold the most basic of humanitarian standards for some of the most vulnerable persons caught up in this catastrophe.

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