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Refugee Crisis: Why the EU’s Deal with Turkey is No Solution

An interview with Aurélie Ponthieu, a humanitarian advisor at MSF.

“The proposed deal with Turkey shows once again how European leaders have completely lost track of reality.

“If this cynical agreement is implemented, for each Syrian that risks their life at sea another Syrian will have the chance to reach Europe from Turkey.

“This crude calculation reduces people to mere numbers, denying them humane treatment and discarding their right to seek protection in Europe.

“These people are not numbers, but men, women, children and families.

“Around 88% of those using this route are coming from refugee producing countries, and more than half of them are women and children.

“They should be treated humanely and in full respect of their rights and dignity.

“Humanitarian assistance should be based on needs, not on political agendas.”

We’d like to say a well deserved congratulations to the brilliant @pensovic, who has won @TIME magazine’s Photo Story of the Year. Alessandro has spent much of this year documenting the refugee crisis in Europe, and much of that time has been spent on our search and rescue ships in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. In this image, taken in July 2015, a group of around 150 Syrians set off to cross the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, with the hope of being able to apply for refugee status in countries such as Germany or Sweden. Well done Alessandro! © Alessandro Penso (@Pensovic). #MSF #DoctorsWithoutBorders #TIME #TIMEmagazine #refugee #refugeecrisis #Greece #FYROM #Photooftheyear

A photo posted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (@doctorswithoutborders) on

Immediate Humanitarian Consequences

“We are already seeing regular violations of people’s dignity on a daily basis in Greece and across the Balkans: arbitrary push-backs, violence at borders, inhumane reception conditions.

“Despite what the EU council might say, a plan that aims to stop these people from seeking asylum in Europe and returning them to Turkey – a country that is already hosting close to three million registered refugees – is likely to produce additional suffering and is also completely unrealistic.

“The response cannot be to turn our back on thousands of people who have fled war and persecution, create a humanitarian crisis in Greece and then give cash to solve the problem.

The Situation in Greece

“Europe seems to hope that the creation of another humanitarian crisis, this time in Greece, will deter others from coming.

“This is shortsighted and cruel. The existing infrastructure in Greece is already overwhelmed and as we speak, more than 40,000 men, women and children are currently stranded in the country.

“At least 12,000 of them are at the Greek-FYROM border in Idomeni where our teams are seeing dramatic scenes of children born on Europe’s soil and sleeping in the cold of a tent.

“The fragile efforts, mainly at the hands of humanitarian organisations and volunteers, to improve shelter capacities will be completely in vain if hundreds of thousands end up stranded in Greece.

In late summer, the beaches of Lesvos were covered in thousands of lifejackets discarded when those fleeing accross the Aegean Sea made it safely to shore. Now, they, along with the new ones desposited almost every day, are collected in a rubbish dump, near Molyvos in the north of the island. Whilst the rubbish dump serves as a powerful reminder of the more than one million men, women and children who were forced to risk their lives at sea in 2015 and the 70,000 plus who have risked it so far in 2016, it does not include the jackets of those who didn’t make it. In 2015 alone 3,771 people drowned trying to reach Europe, we cannot let that happen again. We need #SAFEPASSAGE and we need it now. © Giorgos Moutafis / MSF #MSF #DoctorsWithoutBorders #lifejacket #refugee #Aegean #Europe #refugeecrisis #Molyvos #Lesvos

A photo posted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (@doctorswithoutborders) on

Proposed EU Support to Turkey and Greece

“With these new plans, the EU is only trying to alleviate the humanitarian consequences of its members’ irresponsible actions. EU humanitarian aid is becoming a tool for Europe to “contain” refugees and migrants away from its shores.

“This is unacceptable. Humanitarian assistance should be based on needs, not on political agendas, and it will never represent an acceptable solution to the failure of European governments to adopt humane migration and asylum policies.

“The EU -Turkey proposed deal, presented as “the” solution to the so-called “crisis” affecting Europe, is a perfect illustration of this dangerous approach.

“The Voluntary Humanitarian admission scheme put forward for Syrians in Turkey is not based on refugees’ needs for assistance and protection, but on Turkey’s ability to stop “migration” to Europe.

“At a time when millions of people in the world are displaced, it is shameful that the only safe passage offered by the EU is conditional to the number of people they can send back.


A portrait of Noor, 24 from Syria, with her mother-in-law and her daughter at the Idomeni transit camp, close to the border with FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). MSF is running a medical clinic and distributing relief items. Unable to cross into FYROM, thousands of people are stranded in Idomeni, where reception facilities are already stretched to the limit. The numbers arriving to the north continue to be much higher and so, many refugees and migrants have no option than to sleep outside in the cold. The build-up of people who cannot continue the journey to FYROM, has created a bottleneck and these restrictions are causing additional suffering for men, women and children that have already been through war and highly dangerous journeys in search of safety. From 27 February to 1 of March, MSF medical teams conducted 756 medical consultations. Mainly respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal (associated with inadequate access to hygiene facilities). The majority were women and children under the age of five. © Alex Yallop/MSF #MSF #DoctorsWithoutBorders #Syria #SyriaCrisis #Refugees #Idomeni

A photo posted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (@doctorswithoutborders) on

Wrong Strategy

“Our experience clearly shows that despite hastily built fences and barbed wire, people will continue to find ways to reach Europe.

“While European leaders continue to focus on the wrong strategy, they are only exacerbating the causes of their own policy-made crisis: the lack of safe, legal channels forcing people to sea and into the hands of smugglers, and the “first country of entry” rule putting unfair pressure on southern European countries and forcing people to transit on unsafe journeys through Europe.

“There has been no response to these highly problematic deficiencies. Relocation, a safe way to exit Greece and its dysfunctional asylum and reception system, is not functioning. Only 937 asylum seekers have been relocated out of the 160,000 promised and only 4,555 resettled out of 20,000.

“The EU-Turkey deal and the deployment of EU humanitarian aid to Greece will be no quick fix to the need people have to find safety and protection in Europe.

“It is time European governments start facing reality and provide a responsible, common, humane and dignified response to people’s unstoppable search for protection and a better life for themselves and their children, by providing safe passage for those in need in dignity.”

Cover photo by Diala Ghassan © MSF, 2016.

via MSF UK

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