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.

The EU hot­spot Moria on Les­bos, Janu­ary 7th, 2017. Pho­to: Twit­ter / @GiorgosKosmop. Copy­right pri­va­te / third party.

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.