An Inter-Agency Call on European Governments to Protect Refugees

Ahead of the EU-Turkey Council on Monday Council President Donald Tusk will visit the region most impacted by those fleeing danger and heading to the EU. He will be in Athens and Ankara today and in Istanbul tomorrow. This is a time of tragedy at the Turkish border, with a 10 year old having been shot by border guards.

A large collection of organisations have written to European Government leaders calling on them take action in order to ensure that the immediate humanitarian needs of people on the move are met, and to live up to their obligations under international law.

The letter specifically calls on European states to:

  • Put an end to the selective admission policy currently in place and fulfill legal obligations to ensure fair and thorough refugee status determination procedures for all nationalities. In addition, children seeking asylum have the right to a ‘best interest assessment’ and an individual screening for their specific protection needs.
  • Make immediate provisions to meet the needs of people no longer able to continue their journey, including urgently scaling up reception and support services which respect people’s dignity and human rights. Provisions should be made to find emergency accommodation for children and their families who are especially vulnerable.
  • Stop forceful and involuntary push-backs which deny individual rights to apply for asylum, particularly to countries where people might face persecution, and for those who are found not to be eligible for international protection, ensure the returns process respects their basic human rights.
  • Work together to ensure a co-ordinated approach to deal with the crisis based on information-sharing and collaboration, and avoid unilateral moves which can create dangerous ‘domino-effects’ that impact on vulnerable people. A collective response is needed immediately to ensure that affected states, particularly Greece, have adequate resources and funding to provide support and protection to people in their borders.
  • Create safe and legal routes into Europe for people seeking asylum, to avoid the loss of life on dangerous journeys and decrease the demand for irregular smuggling and trafficking networks. It is clear that deterrence policies based on razor-wire fences, intimidating police forces, and closed borders, will do little to stop desperate people searching for safety.

Signatories to the letter are:

ActionAid , Albanian Helsinki Committee, Atina Serbia, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, Center for Youth Integration Serbia, Civic Initiatives Belgrade, Civil Rights Program Kosovo, Doctors of the World Greece, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Građanske inicijative – Civic Initiative, Greek Council of Refugees, Greek Forum of Refugees, Grupa 484, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Humanitarni centar za integraciju i toleranciju (HCIT), Hrvatski pravni centar, International Rescue Committee, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, Macedonian Young Lawyers Association, Norwegian, Refugee Council , Open Gate – La Strada, Oxfam, Practical Policy Centre Serbia, Praksis, Praxis Serbia, Save the Children, Solidarity Now, VluchtelingenWerk Nederland.

They end by reminding European states of their responsibility to protect the vulnerable and respect the rights and human dignity of all people arriving at their borders. In contrast their latest measures reveal the dangerous trajectory that Europe is following towards undermining the foundations of European and international refugee and human rights law. In conclusion they remind European Governments that it is not too late to for Europe to correct course and enact proper procedures outlined in existing law and take immediate action to protect vulnerable people in its territory.

The letter is available in both English
Joint Statement on Boarder closures_03.03.2016
And Serbian
Joint Statement FINAL_03.03.2016 Serbian

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