In recent days, the Greek government took a series of harsh measures to push back thousands of asylum seekers and migrants attempting to enter from Turkey. Greece sent military forces to the border, said it would suspend asylum applications, and deport migrants who entered irregularly. One child died and 47 migrants were rescued after their boat capsized off the island of Lesbos, the Greek coastguard said. Separately, video footage released by the Turkish government appears to show members of the Greek coastguard shooting into the water near migrants. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has urged authorities not to use excessive or disproportionate force and is calling for continued resources from other European states.
Stefano Argenziano, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operations coordinator for Greece, gave the following statement calling on the Greek government and other European Union (EU) member states to take immediate action to address the ongoing emergency facing people trapped in horrific conditions:
“It is now almost four years since the EU-Turkey statement traded human lives for political gains.
Once again, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) sees that EU member states are willing to deter people from seeking safety at all cost, rather than providing the most basic assistance to men, women and children in need. This deterrence places them in further danger. In recent days, this has culminated with the death of a child, teargassing people at land-borders, and reports of coastguards violently interfering with, instead of helping, boats in distress.
EU member states must address the real emergency: evacuate people from the islands to EU countries, deliver an asylum system that works, and stop trapping people in horrific conditions.Stefano Argenziano, MSF operations coordinator, Greece
With 40,000 people trapped on the Greek islands, the situation has reached breaking point for asylum seekers and local communities alike who have both been abandoned by European leaders for the sake of the EU-Turkey deal. Consequently, increased tensions have led to riots, roadblocks and attacks on those trying to provide assistance.
People in need on the islands are deprived of critical assistance as MSF teams and others have had to limit the volume of activity due to safety concerns. The Greek Government and the European Union must take immediate action to de-escalate the situation.
The emergency measures announced by the Greek government will have devastating consequences as they remove the right to claim protection and aim to push people fleeing war back to Turkey. This will only lead to more chaos, deaths at sea, escalating violence and a worsening humanitarian disaster.
The emergency measures announced by the Greek government will have devastating consequences as they remove the right to claim protection and aim to push people fleeing war back to Turkey.Stefano Argenziano, MSF operations coordinator, Greece
EU member states must address the real emergency: evacuate people from the islands to EU countries, deliver an asylum system that works, and stop trapping people in horrific conditions.
MSF teams in Lesbos are currently adjusting their activities on daily basis according to the security conditions around Moria and Mytilene. We are committed to staying on Lesbos to ensure that asylum seekers receive the medical and mental healthcare they need.”