As the leaders of three key European Union institutions prepared to visit Greece’s land frontier with Turkey, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for emergency humanitarian aid at the border and fair burden sharing among member states.
“The EU has an opportunity to show it has learned from the errors of the recent past by putting in place humane and efficient measures at the border that respect the right to seek asylum and people’s dignity,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch.
“The heads of all three EU institutions should use this visit to pledge their support for emergency humanitarian aid at the border, for sharing responsibility among EU member states for people in need, and for respecting their rights.”
The presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament – Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli – were set to visit the Evros border Tuesday accompanied by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
HRW said the bloc’s top officials should urge Greece to ensure safe access to its territory and asylum, pledge support for systems to relocate people from the border area to other EU member states for processing, and commit to work with like-minded EU countries to urgently resettle larger groups of Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.
“Applying for asylum is a right, not a luxury,” Leicht said. “Showing humanity and defending rights is the best way to defend the EU borders,” she said.
On Monday, the United Nation’s refugee agency said that Greece had no right to stop accepting asylum applications.
“It is important that the [Greek] authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” UNHCR said.