The human rights situation at the border between Turkey and Greece where thousands are trapped without access to humanitarian assistance, or any way to seek international protection, is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, Council of Europe's human rights chief, Dunja Mijatovic, said on Monday, calling for immediate action.
“Everything must be done to de-escalate violence in the border region, including by ensuring that law enforcement authorities refrain from using excessive force. All measures should be taken to assess the protection needs of those trapped and to ensure access to asylum for those in need,” Council of Europe (CoE) Human Rights Commissioner said in the wake of the latest migrant wave heading towards Europe after Turkey opened its borders for their free movement.
“I call on Greece and Turkey, as well as all other member states involved, to ensure that humanitarian assistance is immediately provided to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants trapped at the border in order to alleviate the sufferings of human beings caught up in political turmoil,” she stressed.
Mijatovic urged the member states to refrain from any actions that would lead to vulnerable people ending up in a humanitarian and human right emergency.
“I am particularly concerned by the complete closure of border posts by Greece, which is being followed by other member states. I am also concerned about Turkey’s actions in the last days that have encouraged people to move to the border and have left them in this situation,” she added.
The commissioner expressed a “grave concern” over the reports on “vigilantism on the Greek islands, reminding the competent authorities of their duty to prevent violence and intimidations against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.
“Solidarity between member states is now more crucial than ever. This should focus on building further capacity to deal, in a fair and prompt manner, with asylum requests, but also with sharing responsibility for the reception of those in need of protection,” said Mijatovic, stressing that this solidarity must first be extended to Turkey and Greece, two most affected countries at the moment.
“Over the years, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been used as pawns to achieve the domestic or geopolitical goals of all the states involved. This is antithetical to the idea of human rights and to the values that unite us. The response I see today threatens to upend the entire system of protection that Europe has painstakingly built up over many decades. It is not yet too late to reverse the current course of action and preserve dignity and humanity,” said the commissioner.