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PRESS RELEASE: EU leaders can save lives this winter if they change migration policies


A coalition of more than 30 humanitarian agencies and human rights organisations, among which Dutch peacebuilding organisation PAX, are gravely concerned that European policies are trying more and more to push people out of Europe, making it even harder to seek asylum, and leaving it to Member States of first entry, like Greece, to shoulder all the responsibility.

This week, European leaders meet in Brussels to discuss, amongst other things, progress on the EU-Turkey deal, the reform of the European asylum system, solidarity and responsibility sharing, and cooperation with countries of origin and transit.

Disregarding the realities on the ground and the human rights violations that the EU-Turkey Statement has led to, the European Commission proposes measures that will further exacerbate the situation.

At the summit on 15 December, European leaders have the opportunity to ensure that people arriving in Europe will be treated humanely, responsibly and that their rights will be safeguarded.
In order to improve the situation, European leaders need to take important steps immediately:

  • Member States should prioritise the immediate transfer of people from overcrowded sites on the islands to open facilities on the mainland that meet European law standards for reception, rather than pressuring Greek authorities to keep people on islands in substandard conditions.
  • Member States should commit to redoubling their efforts to take asylum seekers out of first countries of arrival, including Greece, prioritising the most vulnerable groups, irrespective of their nationality, and providing information and support to people when selecting the destination country. Member States should enable swift and efficient access to family reunification, relocation and a secure refugee status.
  • Member States should ensure that every person has access to protection and to a fair and efficient asylum process. The EU should respect the fundamental rights framework it has set out for itself and ensure that the desire to speed up processes is not at the expense of access to asylum.

The EU should halt its policy of externalising migration management through agreements such as the EU-Turkey Statement, which fall short of the EU’s commitments under refugee and human rights law. It is possible to manage migration in a dignified and humane way. By strengthening the framework for legal migration, expanding safe and legal routes for refugees, and protecting the rights of everyone who arrived in Europe, the EU can set a global example for systems that ensure the wellbeing of migrants, including refugees, while simultaneously protecting its own internal freedoms.

31 NGO's amongst which PAX have signed a statement calling upon the EU member states to take swift and robust measures to solve the deplorable situation of refugees in Greece ahead of the EU summit of December 15.

Read the joint NGO statement ahead of the European Council of 15 December 2016.

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