La Strada

Photo credits: La Strada

Over 30 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), including Terre des Hommes, have released a joint statement ahead of the European Council of 15 December: it calls the European leaders to make a concrete change and to ensure the respect of human rights of migrants.

According to the NGOs, the European Commission has acknowledged in its progress report on the EU-Turkey deal, published last week, many of the problems that the European policies are causing in Greece: reception centres on islands are filled beyond capacity and the conditions are drastically deteriorating under harsh winter weather.

The statement warns that the dignity and safety of thousands of men, women and children on the Aegean islands are threatened. Unaccompanied children are kept in detention facilities, in unsanitary conditions and sometimes together with adults increasing the risk of sexual and other abuses.

Another key worry is the fact that Greece is being asked to take problematic steps to increase returns to Turkey, including vulnerable asylum seekers and those with family members in other EU countries.

At the same time EU countries have been recommended to resume returns to Greece of asylum seekers who passed through that country, applying the Dublin Regulation. Given the challenges the country is facing, this decision comes when efforts should instead be stepped up to relocate asylum seekers out of Greece to other European countries.

At the summit on 15 December the European Council will discuss, among 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.

For this purpose, the NGOs have identified concrete steps with a view of ensuring that people arriving in Europe will be treated humanely, responsibly and that their rights will be safeguarded. European leaders are called to take them forward and to fulfill the EU’s commitments under refugee and human rights law.

The question is whether or not they have the political will.

Read the proposed steps included in the NGOs statement ahead of the European Council of 15 December 2016

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