Not exactly winter-proof: Yet another winter of dismal conditions in the EU hotspot camps on the Greek islands. Photo: Twitter / @GiorgosKosmop. Copyright: private / third party

In Greece, thousands of refugees are suffering in the bitter cold in unheated tents and makeshift shelters. Nonetheless, the German Ministry for the Interior (BMI) is planning to recommence deportations to Greece from March 15th. PRO ASYL instead demands swift rescue operations for people seeking protection.

By deliberately disregarding the dramatic situation of more than 60,000 asylum seekers stranded in Greece, the EU commission’s recommendation and the BMI’s communication (a document obtained by PRO ASYL) attempt to rescue an inhumane system of responsibility, under which Dublin-transfers to Greece are to recommence after March 15th.

While thousands of asylum seekers are exposed to bitterly cold conditions and some may freeze to death, politicians are cynically whitewashing the situation in Greece.

Deportations will recommence on March 15th

Tragic, but not surprising: The BMI has advised that the current ban on deportations of asylum seekers to Greece (which came into force in January 2011) is to end on March 15th, 2017, and has instructed the Federal Agency to develop a model to implement the recommendations formulated by the EU commission on December 8th, 2016.

According to these documents, deportations to Greece are to recommence to a “limited extent”; “vulnerable groups, including unaccompanied minors” are initially to be excluded from such deportations, and Greece has to guarantee admission in each individual case prior to deportation taking place.

Create humane shelters

Instead of enforcing Dublin-deportations, it is of crucial importance to comprehensively investigate the abject failure of the system of housing asylum seekers in Greece and to house refugees in humane conditions without delay. Human rights organisations have been working for months to get refugees out of tents and miserable camps.

Nevertheless, to this date the situation remains unchanged. A few days ago, the Greek Minister for Migration claimed that “there are no refugees or migrants living in the cold anymore” – however, given the conditions in the EU hotspot camps on the Greek islands this statement is clearly untrue.

Open legal departure routes

It begs the question why – despite the availability of sufficient funds in EU budgets – thousands of asylum seekers are still without adequate shelter and are forced to live in the mud and – since the onset of winter – the snow. A scheme passed more than a year ago, under which refugees were to be relocated from Greece to other EU countries, is barely functioning either: To date, not even 10% of the planned number of 63,000 people have been relocated to other countries.

PRO ASYL calls upon the Greek government, the EU Commission and also the German government to finally put an end to the suffering of asylum seekers, especially those on the Greek islands.  Instead of sending more people into the miserable conditions there, the tens of thousands of people already stranded in Greece must swiftly be granted legal onward passage.