UK-based humanitarian relief agency Oxfam and another 24 nongovernmental organizations sent an open letter to European leaders calling for changes to migration policy, especially with regards to Greece, where the situation for thousands of refugees and migrants is “unsustainable.”
The letter was sent on Thursday, ahead of the anniversary of the EU-Turkey migrant deal signed on March 20, 2016, which the NGOs say has led to “policies and practices in Greece that are short-sighted, unsustainable, ineffective and dangerous.”
“The EU is allowing people to be trapped in appalling conditions while trying in vain to return them to Turkey. European leaders are neglecting their responsibility to protect people fleeing war and persecution – instead they need to be supporting people at their most vulnerable,” Renata Rendon, Oxfam’s head of mission in Greece, was quoted as saying.
“Currently, around 12,000 people – twice the maximum capacity – have been forced to spend the winter in overcrowded reception and identification centers, sleeping in unheated tents or containers with limited access to running water and electricity,” the letter said.
“They are exposed to violence, harassment and exploitation, without proper security or protection. These terrible conditions are due to the European policy of trapping asylum seekers in EU hotspots in the Greek islands, rather than hosting them in locations on the European mainland,” it added.
The NGOs called on Europe's leaders to “agree urgently” on new measures that will more equally distribute the responsibility for asylum seekers between its member-states, ensuring that the conditions they are subjected to at accommodation and processing facilities are “decent and dignified.”
They also called on Greece to “immediately suspend the restriction of movement that traps” migrants and refugees on the islands, and to ensure that the available EU funding is properly spent on “essential services such as medical and legal services.”