OPINION

A response to the 120 NGOs

a-response-to-the-120-ngos

Dear 120 human rights organizations, it was with surprise that I read your recent statement to the leaderships of Greece and the European Union, bombastically titled “Protect our laws and humanity!”

In it, you accuse Greece of violating the “fundamental principle of non-refoulement,” without mentioning that Turkey is considered a “safe country” and therefore refugees who are returned there are not at risk. You deny Greece’s right to suspend asylum procedures and failed to ask yourselves whether the profile of the people amassing at Greece’s border is more in keeping with people who are being directed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or proper refugees.

Nor do you wonder why all these so-called refugees attacked the Greek border guards at Evros with stones, iron bars and Turkish Army-issued tear gas, or why not a single one of these thousands looking for a way into Europe tried to get over the border into Bulgaria.

You didn’t ask yourselves whether it is even possible to distinguish real refugees who are entitled to asylum when Turkish tanks are trying to pull down the border fence. Mainly, though, what is lacking in your letter is any proof of claims that residents in Greece have behaved cruelly to refugees. In this chaotic environment of fake news, some proof would be a lot of help to the Greek justice system.

In your statement, you made recommendations to Greece and the European Union, yet failed to make any recommendations or write a letter to Erdogan. You do not even mention his name. If anything, you refer to his policy and – what’s worse – appear to espouse it. Like Erdogan, you want to see Greece open its borders. Like Erdogan, you want the EU-Turkey agreement revised.

The only conclusions that can be drawn from this are either that Erdogan is a champion of human rights, or you are not impartial, or I – a member of Amnesty International for the last 40 years – am a far-right fascist.

None of those conclusions is true, though. What is true is that, in part because of your ideological blinders, in part because of bureaucratic formalism and in part out of naivety, you presented a set of broad principles which are almost impossible to implement. Is this how you really hope to influence governments and educate society in Greece?