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EU: MEP asks the Commission to clarify the legal position of NGOs and volunteers who give humanitarian assistance to refugees
26 November 2015
Jean Lambert MEP (Green/EFA Group) has put down a written question to the European Commission concerning: Legal clarity for NGOs and volunteers providing humanitarian assistance
"Particularly over the past year, NGOs and volunteers have been providing crucial assistance to asylum seekers and refugees to fill a void in a coordinated humanitarian response from Member State Governments and the EU.
In its recent communication "Progress Report on the Implementation of the hotspots in Greece" issued on the 15 December 2015 the Commission states that:
"Coordination needs to be further improved by making systematic and effective use of the coordination mechanisms that have been put in place. Appointed coordinators for the islands should be empowered.... to coordinate all relevant governmental and non-governmental players involved in the hotspot locations."
The Greek Government has responded by setting up a committee to register, classify and co-ordinate the NGOs operating on Lesvos.
Could the Commission clarify the intentions behind its push for the increased coordination of NGOs and volunteers working on the ground as concerns have been raised about the appropriateness of the information required?
Given that current EU law does not provide legal certainly for NGOs and volunteers providing humanitarian assistance to those seeking protection in the EU, will the Commission clarify the legal situation in its upcoming review of Directive 2002/90/EC defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence?"
This follows the publication of two Statewatch articles:
Council proposals on migrant smuggling would criminalise humanitarian assistance by civil society, local people and volunteers - and in Greece: NGOs and volunteers have to "register" with the police and be vetted
The Council of the European Union is preparing plans to equate the concept of migrant "smuggling" with migrant "trafficking" and potentially criminalise or marginalise NGOs, local people and volunteers who for months have been welcoming and helping refugees and migrants arriving in the EU. See: The Draft Council conclusions on migrant smuggling
(LIMITE doc no 5481-rev-2-15, pdf)
Steve Peers, Professor of Law, University of Essex, comments:
"'This document fails to acknowledge the crucial role played by Greek islanders and volunteers in rescuing and caring for migrants who cross the Mediterranean in unsafe vessels. The EU should amend its anti-smuggling laws as soon as possible to confirm that no-one giving such vital humanitarian assistance should ever be penalised for it'
And a follow-up article: NGOs and volunteers helping refugees in Greece to be placed under state control
The General Secretariat of Aegean and Island Coordinating Committee have produced two forms that all NGOs working on the Greek islands to help refugees will have to complete with lots of personal details and register with the police in order to carry on their work. This move is contrary to the guidelines set out by the Council of Europe which state that: "there should be no attempts by public authorities to make NGOs effectively agencies working under their control
NGO and volunteer police "registration" forms
The "Organisation Profile" form
(pdf) requires NGOs to give:
- personal details of all volunteers working with them
- naming their "Source(s) of income"
- affiliation with other groups active in Greece
- proposed place of action and type of voluntary work
- Proposed analytical program / Action Description
The "Personal Profile"
(pdf) form in addition to name, address, date of birth and passport number asks for:
- "Professional capacity"
- "Previous actions" (all activities it would appear)
- date of arrival and departure
- "Affiliation/cooperation with organisation(s) already active in Greece"
- "Proposed voluntary action in Greece"
- "Curriculum/Description Action
- "Proposed place of action and type of voluntary work"