Urgent Call to Action from Civil Society Organisations across Europe.
Over the past days devastating fires1 burnt down the Moria Registration and Identification Center and surrounding areas, the EU Hotspot on the Greek island Lesvos. The fires have left thousands of vulnerable individuals homeless and traumatised2, among them over 4,000 children3.
The undersigned organisations reiterate their call on the governments of EU Member States, with support from the European Commission4, to urgently relocate displaced individuals from Greece.
While we are shocked and saddened at these developments, they come as no surprise. Lesvos and the other EU Hotspots5 on the Aegean islands have reached breaking point long ago6. Moria camp is currently hosting roughly 12-13,000 displaced individuals, with an official capacity of only 2,800. These severely overcrowded camps are characterised by squalid living conditions and a severe lack of adequate sanitation or hygiene facilities, even amid the heightened health risks due to Covid-197. The situation in the other Greek Hotspots is similarly untenable and repeated warnings8 have remained unanswered for over four years.
Relocation urgently needed
We welcome the transfer of 406 unaccompanied children from Lesvos to the Greek mainland, with financial support from the European Commission9. This demonstrates how swiftly transfers can be co-ordinated when the political will exists. We commend the Norwegian and Dutch governments’ commitments to relocating 5010 and 10011 individuals respectively, as well as the French and German governments’ willingness to transfer 400 children12. We urge further European governments to follow with concrete commitments and action without delay. The positive example set by relocations carried out by the coalition of willing Member States since March 202013 shows that relocations can be carried out safely and successfully for everyone involved. Member States, EU institutions, relevant EU and UN agencies with support from civil society should now share experiences, expertise and resources to ensure further states join the coalition. The undersigned organisations stand ready to support these efforts, to bring the men, women and children stranded in Greece to safety, and thereby uphold our European values of human rights and human dignity.
The EU Hotspots as an EU Migration Management Approach
The latest events prove once again the failure of the Hotspots as the default EU migration management approach. We call on the European Parliament to investigate the role that the EU and Member States played in the failed management of Moria. Moreover, we urge the European Commission, the German EU Council Presidency and Member States to treat the horrifying images of Moria burning as unequivocal proof of the tragic human cost14 of an EU asylum and migration system based on containment and deterrence policies. We strongly recommend the European Commission to take these events into account with a view to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and ensure the same policies do not inform the extremely concerning proposals for ‘processing centres’ at EU borders. It is vital that the New Pact is taken as an opportunity to present a new start rather than a replication of past errors.
- Al Jazeera, 9 September 2020.
- CNN, 9 September 2020.
- UNHCR and Council of Europe, 9 September 2020.
- Together with relevant EU and UN agencies and in cooperation with civil society organisations.
- UNHCR, 31 August 2018.
- Amnesty International, 6 December 2018; see also: Call to Action by Civil society organisations, March 2020.
- MSF, 30 July 2020
- HRW, 19 March 2016.
- Ekathimerini, 9 September 2020.
- Dpa-international, 9 September 2020
- NLTimes.NL, 11 September 2020.
- France 24, 10 Septembre 2020.
- European Commission, 15 Aprile 2020 PubAffairsBruxelles, 8 July 2020
- MSF, 11 March 2020.