27 August 2020
Greece has come in for sharp criticism for its continued puhsbacks of migrants and refugees, in flagrant violation of European and international human rights law. However, its practices are the result of a continent-wide migration policy that seeks to pass the buck when it comes to providing protection to people in need, argues Daniel Trilling.
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Greece has a deadly new migration policy – and all of Europe is to blame (The Guardian, link, emphasis added):
"...if every country looks only to its own interests, and behaves as if asylum seekers are someone else’s problem, then you very quickly end up with a system that traps people in situations where their lives are at risk. That is the system bequeathed by Europe’s panicked response to the 2015 refugee crisis, and in recent months, partly under cover of the emergency conditions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, it has got worse."
Trilling points out that Greece has been used as a "buffer zone" by the rest of the EU against unwanted migration, with increasingly desparate policies including the deportation of people via the use of life rafts, the establishment of a secret detention centre near the Turkish border, and the deployment of troops at the border. Italy and Malta have long since sought to limit rescues at sea and prevent the arrival of people saved in the Mediterranean, while the EU has actively cooperated with the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure 'pullbacks' to a country where torture and ill-treatment of migrants is rife.
"It would be easy to place the blame for these situations squarely on the shoulders of countries at the EU’s Mediterranean frontier. But they are acting in a way that most European governments see as beneficial... This includes the UK, which makes use of those buffer zones regardless of Brexit: as coronavirus spread through Europe, the Home Office refused to resettle refugee children trapped in Greece – children who had relatives in the UK and the legal right to join them – only doing so belatedly under pressure from campaigners.
It would be easy to dismiss what happens at other countries’ borders as a matter for them alone, but the pattern is international, and the erosion of rights it represents should concern us all. When states opt for extreme measures to push refugees away from their territory, it threatens to undermine the entire system that exists to protect them."
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