Refugee Life Style: Waiting to be Legal – Greece, Turkey & European Union

Refugee Life Style: Waiting to be Legal – Greece, Turkey & European Union

In this motionless humankind world I write down the words that have already been written, once again.

According to UNHCR 2016 report, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by armed conflict, generalized violence and persecution.

Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

In Greece 2018, more than 60000 refugees and migrants (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) are trapped, more than 15000 have been confined to the islands.

Greece’s legal system on asylum is based on the Geneva Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, and on European Union (EU) legislation on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).

At present, Turkey is the highest host countries worldwide with 3.9 million registered refugees (mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghanis) where almost 230000 are hosted in camps.

Turkey was one of the original signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention but limits the scope of the Convention’s application to European asylum seekers.

Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection introduced changes in its asylum system setting many temporary statuses (conditional refugee status, humanitarian residence permit, or temporary protection) for those coming from outside of the Convention’s application scope.

They can be qualifying for international protection and not be subject to return to their home country but  they do not have the ability to integrate into Turkish society.

Facing the massive flux of Syrians in 2015, European Union (EU) established measures to prevent illegal entries and disorganized asylum process.

Balkans borders were closed and two relocation plans for Syrians, Iraqis, and Eritreans were set to transfer 66000 refugees from Greece to other EU members over a period of 2 years.

In order to cope Greece deficiencies in its asylum services, EU set funds and personnel needed for Frontex – European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to help and operate the asylum centers.

The stress on Greece’s obligation to stop onward movements is based on the Dublin Regulations EU rules that require the first country of entry to take responsibility for asylum applications.

The refugee crisis has also jeopardized the functioning of Schengen Area as some EU countries have re-imposed border controls and others are considering reintroducing border controls if Greece fails to control the current migratory flow.

During that first year, less than 200 asylum seekers have been transferred out of Greece under the plan and EU countries have deployed just over half the personnel to operate the centers.

On March 18, 2016, the European Union signed an agreement with Turkey to stem migration and refugee flows to Greece.

The EU-Turkey deal commits Turkey to accept the return of all asylum seekers who travelled through its land in exchange for billions of euros in aid, visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, and revived negotiations for Turkish accession to the EU. The deal also provides for the resettlement of one other Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian returned to Turkey under the deal.

Asylum seekers from other countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, do not even have access to temporary protection status.

At the same time, Greece, supported by the EU, put in place a containmennt policy, confining more than 15000 asylum seekers to the islands, living in crowded and filthy processing centers, in lightweight tents or even sleeping outside on the ground.

In addition, no one, regardless of nationality, who arrived after March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal went into effect, is eligible for relocation under the scheme.

In reality, the EU-Turkey agreement has set a dangerous precedent by putting at risk the very principle of the right to seek refuge.

While Greece remains on the frontline of Europe’s asylum and migration challenges and Turkey is hosting over millions refugees, the acute economic crisis is felt by everybody and conflicts, far from ending, are sharpened increasing the hostile behaviour against refugees.

Despite UNHCR, NGOs and individual efforts to protect refugees and migrants and work on integration, this motionless humankind world is wrong, once again.

 

Bárbara Orozco Díaz / 24 May 2018

 

 

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