The Independent View: Urgent Call for European Commission to reconsider its Dublin Transfer recommendations.

In the same week that the world marked Human Rights Day, the European Commission announced plans to resume the so-called “Dublin transfers” of refugees back to Greece. If this recommendation is adopted at this week’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels (commencing in February of next year) EU member countries will start returning refugees who arrive on their territory back to the country of their first entry into the European Union, wherever that may be. Dublin transfers to Greece from other Member States have been suspended since 2011 following two judgements of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which identified systemic deficiencies in the Greek asylum system. I have seen with my own eyes the desperation of the situation in Greece and it is far from pleasant. For the last year I have been been volunteering on the Aegean Island of Samos in Greece, I can confirm that to reinstate the Dublin transfers could result in a catastrophic degeneration in conditions which are already unsanitary, unsafe and badly over crowded. Grassroots organisations and volunteers on the ground in Greece are very concerned about these findings for a number of reasons outlined below.

Despite the EC’s claims that “significant improvements have been made in the reception of Refugees in Greece’’, in fact many sites in Greece remain badly overcrowded and unsanitary, with inadequate , shelter, food or medical provision, not to mention provision for minors and vulnerable groups and child safe spaces and psycho social activities. As the UN high commissioner Filippo Grandi highlighted in August, all of the EU member states need to do more to Help Greece help to manage the impact of the refugee crisis  “The challenges ( in Greece) are very serious, and we need to continue to address them together,” Grandi said. “Especially the living conditions, security in the refugee sites, and terrible overcrowding on the islands. These are all issues for which we continue to be at the disposal of the Greek government.” He also stressed the need for EU member states to speed up legal options such as family reunification and relocation through the EU’s official relocation programme.

The report stated that “with Dublin transfers suspended, there is an incentive for asylum seekers who arrive irregularly in Greece to seek to move irregularly on to other Member States (known as ‘secondary movements’), in the knowledge they will not be sent back to Greece.” However it is completely unfair that only one mechanism of the Dublin ruling which is being applied, when no moves are being made to force the schengen states to make good on their commitments to receive a quota of refugees. So far only 3,054 refugees have been relocated from Greece to other EU member states, while another 3,606 are scheduled to depart in the coming months. Still, support lags as member states have pledged only 8,003 spaces out of 66,400 committed. If the transfers are restarted Greece will once again be bearing the burden for the refugee crisis completely unsupported by other responsible Schengen states. This ‘pull factor’ ascertain is very tiring. I feel it would be far more pertinent to prioritise processing people’s asylum claims more quickly and efficiently rather than wasting time and money on sending people back to Greece, only to be processed again. It is my firm held belief that if they do this refugees and asylum seekers won’t be forced to move ‘irregularly’.It is the terrible, unsanitary and inhumane conditions in Greece & the lack of income supplement, social welfare, inadequate medical care and the glacial asylum processing system is what propels people to move illegally rather than waiting it out. I feel that authorities must work instead to speed up the relocation and family reunification transfers & to improve living conditions in Greece.

As I write this the blood is flowing in Aleppo and we all watch aghast, feeling completely powerless to do anything to help. However we are not entirely powerless: we have the ability to petition our Government to step up and take responsibility for some of the displaced people who are affected by conflict, oppression and atrocities just like those that are unfolding in Aleppo this week.

We cannot remain blinkered to this situation any longer, we have a collective and humane responsibility to help and protect our fellow humans. We have the ability to be better than this and to take responsibility at least  for the relatively small number of refugees who have family here in the UK. On 21 April 2016 the Government announced that it will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resettle children and adults from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The new scheme is the largest resettlement effort aimed specifically at children at risk from the MENA region. In addition to this pledge there is their pre-existing commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). However so far despite worsening conditions in Greece and well documented atrocities in Syria, so far only 1000 have been settled here. I hope that by highlighting the disparity between the recommendations of the European Commission & the appalling conditions on the ground in Greece, as witnessed by volunteers  and experienced by refugees stranded in Greece, you will feel moved to take action and try to lobby the European Parliament to  make the right decision , rather than voting to increase the burden on Greece and in doing so increase the misery of the thousands of refugees stuck there.

The Independent View‘ is a slot on Lib Dem Voice which allows those from beyond the party to contribute to debates we believe are of interest to LDV’s readers. Please email [email protected] if you are interested in contributing.

* Pru Waldorf is a volunteer with Calais Action

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4 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 16th Dec '16 - 11:07am

    Referring to “refugees and asylum seekers” is ambiguous. Are you including recognised refugees?

  • Pru Waldorf 24th Dec '16 - 2:55am

    Hi Richard, thanks for your comment . There are no automatically recognised refugees under the terms of the EU Turkey deal. Nationalities which have automatic refugee status under international law are unable to excersise those rights, because the law is being superseded by the EU Turkey deal. In other words those who submit asylum claims, but are determined to have arrived ( in Greece) from a country where they could have claimed protection ie (a “safe third country” or “first country of asylum,” ) are considered inadmissible to the European Union and therfore considered eligible for return. So this means nany people are being refused asylum & being sent ‘back to Turkey’ even though Turkey clearly doesn’t meet the criteria of ‘a safe country’ for anyone , let alone people who are most likely to suffer persecution & a lack of international protection there. In other words every individual, regardless of their automatic refugee status is considered on a case by case basis and people are interned in camps in Greece which they wait. They cannot apply direct to the country they wish to claim asylum from . It was infected at the time the deal was introduced that even with the EU-Turkey deal in place, most asylum claims made in Greece would still have to be considered according to the existing Dublin Regulation, suggesting that those with valid and verified family connections should be transferred to the appropriate EU Member State to complete asylum procedures rather than be returned to Turkey, however we are seeing the majority of people being defined first time. I have seen cases of elderly family members being denied asylum in Europe despite the fact that all their family are already resident in Europe. They are suffering extended delays in the asylum processing system, meaning that many people will have been up to be 2 years in Greece living in dreadful conditiorns , before receuvubg a decision on their application

  • Doreen cremen 4th Jan '17 - 8:58pm

    These poor people have been threw enough…We need to show are humanity..We need to HELP..

  • suzanne fletcher 4th Jan '17 - 10:57pm

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