Living conditions and prospects for refugees in Greece must be improved, MEPs say
The EU must ensure decent living conditions for refugees stranded in Greece since the closure of the northern border with FYROM. Civil Liberties Committee Members on a fact-finding mission in Greece also said that asylum-seekers must have legal ways to receive international protection.
MEPs met on Tuesday evening with the Greek Minister for Migration, Ioannis Mouzalas, to discuss the situation of refugees in the country as well as the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal aimed at stemming the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers from Turkey. Wednesday MEPs visited the Idomeni camp and met with international organizations and NGOs working on the ground.
Following the visit to Idomeni, Peter Niedermuller (S&D, HU), head of the delegation, said: “What we have witnessed here is a human tragedy. It is a symbol of a failed European migration policy."
"In the short term, on the ground, we need to ensure health care, social care, psychological support and access to education for children. In the medium term, we need a process based on legal alternatives by which these people can be relocated or granted international protection in Greece. In the long term, we need a genuinely common European asylum system based on solidarity and acceptance of the realities of human migration”.
Minister Mouzalas acknowledged that the situation in Idomeni “is not good” and explained that the Greek authorities want to close down the camp by mid-June, moving the thousands of people, mostly Syrians, but also Iraqis and Afghans, to other locations with better facilities in the presence of asylum officers.
MEPs questioned the Minister about the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal, and on the cooperation with international organisations and NGOs working with the refugees.
The delegation is headed by Mr Niedermuller and further consists of Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE), Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), Helga Stevens (ECR, BE), Malin Bjork (GUE, SE), Laura Ferrara (EFDD, IT), Roza Maria Grafin Thun und Hohenstein (EPP, PL), Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP, SE) and Janice Atkinson (ENF, UK).
On Thursday, MEPs will be in Lesvos, where they will visit a closed centre, the Moria reception centre, as well as an open facility, Karatepe, and will meet with representatives of EASO, Frontex and the local authorities. The delegation will then travel to Athens, where they will have interviews with representatives of the Greek Parliament and UNHCR.
The head of the delegation will hold a press conference in Athens at 10:00, on Friday 20 May. Live updates on our Storify: https://storify.com/europarl_en/meps-visit-greece.
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Note to editors
Under the deal reached by EU heads of state and government with the Turkish authorities on 18 March, all people arriving irregularly from Turkey to the Greek islands are to be returned, while the EU is to take in one Syrian refugee for each Syrian sent back. Once irregular crossings from Turkey have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated.
According to European Commission data, the average number of daily arrivals has already significantly decreased, from around 1,600 in February to just over 100 in March. Following the EU-Turkey deal, 690 persons who arrived irregularly on the Greek islands have been sent back to Turkey. Of the 472 asylum officers requested by the European Asylum Support Office to deal with applications in Greece, almost 100 have already been deployed.