ATHENS – The European Union, which has mostly stood by as Greece has been overwhelmed with refugees and migrants, should dispatch emergency humanitarian aid as the country is trying to deal with fears that millions more could be coming, said Human Rights Watch.
“The EU has an opportunity to show it has learned from the errors of the recent past by putting in place humane and efficient measures at the border that respect the right to seek asylum and people’s dignity,” said Lotte Leicht, the agency’s EU Director.
“The heads of all three EU institutions should use this visit to pledge their support for emergency humanitarian aid at the border, for sharing responsibility among EU member states for people in need, and for respecting their rights,” said HRW, reported Kathimerini.
That came as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli, and European Council President, Charles Michel – who represents the heads of state in the EU, were to go to the Evros River border with Turkey with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
That’s where thousands more refugees and migrants massed after Turkey opened its borders after the deaths of dozens of Turkish soldiers in an area of northern Syria that Turkey invaded, setting off worries of a new flood going there.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would unleash potentially millions more on the EU through Greece, which is holding some 100,000 in detention centers and camps, including about 42,000 on its islands near Turkey.
HRW said the bloc’s top officials should urge Greece to ensure safe access to its territory and asylum, pledge support for systems to relocate people from the border area to other EU member states for processing, and get other countries to join in after they refused.
“Applying for asylum is a right, not a luxury,” Leicht said. “Showing humanity and defending rights is the best way to defend the EU borders,” she said.
That came as the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR blasted the New Democracy government for suspending the processing of asylum applications as long delays in dealing with them had set off frequent violence in island camps and clashes between ethnic groups.
“It is important that the [Greek] authorities refrain from any measures that might increase the suffering of vulnerable people,” UNHCR also said.