[Brussels 14 December 2016] Thousands of people are at risk this winter as the EU-Turkey deal keeps migrants, including refugees, stuck in dangerous and degrading conditions in Greece, a coalition of more than 30 humanitarian agencies and human rights organisations, among which the European Women’s Lobby, warn. The organisations most of which work with migrants in Greece, warn that women, children and men could die because of worsening winter conditions. EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday to discuss migration need to take urgent action to improve the situation on the ground and save lives.
In a joint statement to European heads of state and government, the 31 organisations outline the horrendous situation faced by people who have reached Greek shores seeking safety and dignity. Despite overcrowding and rapidly deteriorating conditions, migrants are not being transferred from the islands as EU governments fear they will not be able to deport people from the Greek mainland to Turkey under the deal signed in March.
Women, children and men have been trapped for months in camps that are ill equipped for long-term stays, especially in winter. Many, including children and babies, are living in freezing cold tents and even on beaches, where they struggle to stay dry, as temperatures drop and storms grow more ferocious.
Only three weeks ago, a grandmother and her six-year-old grandchild died when their tent in the Moria ‘hotspot’ on the island of Lesbos caught fire, because the cold forced them to cook inside. In another case, a family suffered carbon monoxide intoxication after they were not given a heater and had to procure their own one. (Source OXFAM)
Many refugees and other migrants, including children, are immediately detained before they can even request asylum, which is a violation of their rights. Families are being broken apart in the process of relocation, or when only some members are granted family reunification. Asylum procedures are slow and unnecessarily complicated. The relocation mechanism is slow, difficult to navigate and excludes many people.
European leaders need to take immediate action to improve the situation, and they have the power to do so!