Joint statement of 26 NGOs about the refugee crisis
On the meeting of the EU with Turkey, 26* national and international organizations from Greece, FYRoM, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, working along the Western Balkan migration route, we condemn the European governments that violate national, European and international Law by closing the doors to people who need international protection.
In the past couple of months more than 108,000 people reached Europe through Greece. They are willing to put their lives in danger by making a very dangerous trip because they leave wars behind. Neither the bad weather, nor the European governments’ policies do they stop them from trying to save their lives. At the same time, these policies are pushing Europe towards a dangerous and condemnable trajectory that violates international and European Conventions on the protection of refugees and human rights in general.
We worry about a series of restrictive policies that affect the security, well being and rights of refugees and migrants in Europe. The discrimination against the Afghans in the border between Greece and FYRoM is unacceptable. The decision of the police authorities of the Republics of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and the FYRoM to let through their borders only people who can prove their nationality amount to arbitrary and illegal restrictions on a person’s right to seek international protection. The daily restrictions in the number of people who are admitted in a country are according to the European Commission clearly incompatible with the Geneva Convention on Refugees. We are concerned these policies may lead to increasing cases of “pushbacks” or collective expulsions in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
These decisions have only served to further exacerbate the level of human suffering. Men, women and children are trapped on the borders in inhumane conditions, since thousands of people are forced to sleep outside in dropping temperatures. They also force them in the arms of the traffickers and push them to find new and dangerous routes so that they continue their journey. The refugees become vulnerable since their money is running out, while unaccompanied children are easy prey to criminal networks, taking them further out of reach of humanitarian actors who can offer them support and protection. The use of violence in the borders, the “pushbacks, and the returns and deportations from one country to the other are putting the safety of refugees in danger.
These practices in Balkan countries are nothing more than a natural continuation of policies adopted by neighbours further up the route, who built fences, imposed caps in the number of asylum requests to be accepted daily, decided to confiscate cash from arriving refugees and restrict the rights of families to be reunified. Europe is on an extremely dangerous trajectory.
We invite Europe to respect its own Conventions, human rights and finally the right of every person to international protection. Everyone has the right to apply for asylum, their application to be examined individually, and in case of rejection, the returns process must still be respectful of their basic human rights. We call, finally, all European governments to accept a substantial number of refugees in their countries and take all necessary measures so that there is an end in the wars that have caused this crisis.
*The NGOs that are signing the joint statement are (in alphabetical order):
ActionAid Hellas, Albanian Helsinki Committee, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, Civic Initiatives Belgrade, Civil Rights Program Kosovo, Doctors of the World Greece, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Humanitarni centar za integraciju i toleranciju (HCIT), Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Građanske inicijative – Civic Initiative, Greek Council for Refugees, Greek Forum of Refugees, Grupa 484, Hrvatski pravni centar, International Rescue Committee, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, Norwegian Refugee Council, Open Gate – La Strada, Oxfam, Practical Policy Centre Serbia, Praksis, Praxis Serbia, Save the Children, Solidarity Now, VluchtelingenWerk Nederland.