Statement by Jessica Therkelsen, Global Policy Director.
The EU – Turkey agreement to “swap” refugee populations is being implemented without consideration for the basic human rights of refugees arriving in its territories. EU countries have instituted pushbacks, using violence to enforce inhumane reception conditions for those seeking safety from war and violence in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Refugee “hotspots” in the Greek Islands have been turned into closed detention centers, where refugees are held involuntarily and rights have been suspended. More than half of the refugee population consists of women and children being forced to sleep in squalid tent cities beside closed borders or in detention centers.
The EU’s harsh treatment of refugees has now caused multiple aid organizations – including UNHCR, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders – to halt aid at the detention facilities.
International law clearly prohibits arbitrary detention, prohibits punishing refugees for their flight to safety, and mandates the use of safe, humane conditions within detention.
In a misguided attempt to stem migration, the EU has lost sight of its moral, ethical and legal obligations toward human beings. In reality, the EU is home to 503 million inhabitants who regularly receive government funded or operated social services. Rational political leadership can find reasonable accommodation in this context for the refugees desperately fleeing destroyed homelands.
Instead of mass detention and deportation, the EU should use its considerable expertise in coordination and service delivery to institute a regional reception and registration program while protecting the fundamental rights and human dignity of those begging for safety at its shores.