The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Croatia slammed on Monday the European Union's support of Greece's decision to suspend the right of migrants to seek asylum for a month after Turkey had opened its borders with the country last week, saying that the move was contrary to European and international rules of human rights' protection.
The response by Croatia, which is currently holding the rotating six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, that it will use all means available to protect the EU’s external border, without emphasising the need to protect the lives of all refugees and migrants, cannot be a response from a country that had itself experienced the hopelessness of war and refugees not so long ago, the JRS said in a statement signed by the head of the Croatian branch of the organisation, Tvrtko Barun.
Last week, the Turkish government said it was no longer able to accommodate the migrants flowing into the country, and decided to open its border with Greece, allowing thousands of migrants and refugees to try and cross into Europe. Greece refused to open its border and sent reinforcements to the border guards in the area.
At the height of the previous migrant crisis in Europe, in 2015, Turkey and the EU struck a deal under which the bloc would send financial aid to Turkey to help them deal with the flow. Up to 3.5 million refugees are currently in Turkey, most of them coming from Syria.
Barun criticised the EU over the events of the last three days, saying the bloc was unprepared to come up with a joint, humane, timely, and sustained response to the challenges of a situation that could and should have been predicted.
Five years after the 2015 crisis, the EU countries still do not have a common position and united strategy, and the refugees are left at the mercy of political games and interests, he said, adding that taking away the possibility to claim asylum as a fundamental human right would only lead to an escalation of an already extremely difficult and complex situation in which people, stranded in no man’s land and used as political leverage, suffer the most.
Turkey’s decision to open the border comes on the heels of an air strike by the Syrian forces, backed by Russia, which killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the city of Idlib. The move is widely believed to be an attempt to force Europe to support its military operations in Syria, which aim to keep Russia-backed President Bashar-al-Assad from gaining ground in Idlib.
On Monday, a child drowned after a makeshift boat carrying 48 people capsized off the coast of Greek island of Lezbos.
Barun said that the European Commission and the Council of the EU should act immediately to ensure access to protection, adding that the EU countries must share the responsibility and act in solidarity to prevent an even greater tragedy.