With the decision of the EU-Turkey summit to deport all refuges that arrive on the Greek Islands back to Turkey, a new area of refugee politics has begun. For the people this means less perspective on a life in dignity, more dangerous routes, more hardship, more suffering, and more death.
The situation on the hotspots on the Greek Island is already so bad that the UNHCR as well as Medecins sans Frontieres announced they will no longer assist the authorities there. Most NGOs, volunteers and independent activists are no longer allowed to access the camps, as they have been turned in to prisons. Read more on the Situation in Chios here and here.
With no independent observers present, the breach of the peoples right to claim asylum in Greece appears to be part of the EU plan.
The same accounts for the advocated ‘solution’ for the people still stuck in Greece. The relocation program to which people from Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Central African Republic and Swaziland are eligible appears to be design to not work. In order to get an appointment for the program, Arabic speaking people have one hour a week* to call in via Skype. In addition to a working Internet connection, people also have to lucky enough to get through. A friend in Idomeni already tried in the Arabic and the English-speaking slot and was unsuccessful. The same might happen next week. And the week after. People are deliberately kept in limbo.
Not to speak of all the refugees from other countries, whose only legal option is to seek asylum in Greece. A procedure that is equally dysfunctional. Exactly because the asylum procedure does not work, the majority of the EU countries stopped Dublin deportations to Greece.
Cynically, a reason for the dysfunctional system is to be found in the EU austerity measures forced upon Greece. They are not allowed to hire any new state employees to make the asylum procedures work. It seems that the new staff announced on the EU-Turkey summit are supposed to make the hotspots and the deportation process work, not the asylum or relocation process for people already in Greece.
Now Greece, which has proven to be incapable – made incapable – of handling a large amount of refugees, is supposed to deal with the EU’s unwillingness to meet its humanitarian and political obligations. The whole system seems to be designed not to work.
The people are forced to stay in the inhumane conditions of camps such as Idomeni and Cherso on a long term.
Meanwhile, the struggle in Idomeni is continuing. Yesterday and today, two people set themselves on fire in in protest of the hopeless situation they are submitted to. Many others have staged protest on the train tracks. The struggle of the refugees will not stop until there is a dignified possibility for them to move freely to their destination.
*Amendment: We learned that people could call in for one hour per week day to apply for the relocation programm and one hour per week for the family reunification. The incertainty about what time to call also showes the notorious chaos of the system and the lack of information available to the people in the camp.