[10.12.2021, 00:01 CET]
For Immediate Release
People on the move are stopped at the European border, mistreated, hunted down, sent back out to sea in rickety boats, or forcibly pushed back from EU territory. Thousands of people died at European borders in 2021, whether in the Mediterranean sea, on Canarias shores, in the English channel or on the border with Belarus.
In Poland, residents living in the border zone put a green light in their homes as a sign that people in need can go there for help. On December 10 - International Human Rights Day - buildings and houses across Europe will turn green, to show that people on the move are welcome here. People and organisations in more than 100 cities and villages in 16 European countries participate in the action day.
Green Light is organised by the Association of Asylum Lawyers Netherlands (VAJN) and MiGreat.
Roos Ykema, Director for MiGreat says: "The treatment of people at the European borders is criminal: people are robbed and mistreated by the police, or slowly left to die of hunger and cold. We call on politicians across Europe: protect people, not borders!”
Christian Schmidt, Press Coordinator for Europe Must Act says: “We are taking part in Green Light to show our solidarity with people seeking sanctuary who are trapped in the Poland-Belarus border region under appalling conditions and because we are deeply concerned by the inhumane and extreme stance of the EU Commission and Member States.”
Last week the European Commission published a proposal that essentially gives EU member states bordering Belarus permission to ignore their legal responsibilities to people trying to cross the border. Under the proposals, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania will be allowed to disregard certain established EU asylum laws that lay down minimum standards for the treatment of people seeking sanctuary.
As explained in a recent editorial by the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), the proposal will allow the three countries to “delay registration of applicants for up to four weeks [and] to house people in centres at the border with only basic needs met for sixteen weeks (likely to be detention, although this is not specified).” Alarmingly, the proposals do not include any of the usual exemptions for vulnerable groups, not even children.
The Commission insists that weakening existing asylum rules is the only solution given the exceptional circumstances, and argues that the measures will only be of a temporary nature (currently proposed for six months). But the Commission’s own stats raise doubts about this claim. Around 8,000 people have crossed from Belarus into the EU in 2021, a tiny figure when compared to the 248,000 asylum applications made across the EU in the first 6 months of 2021. The relatively small numbers of people seeking asylum via this route are manageable, in no way does the situation justify such a hardline response.
Europe Must Act has put together a short briefing setting out some of the most problematic parts of the Commission’s new proposals, for activists and campaigners who would like some key rebuttal points to challenge this inhumane approach.
Notes for Editors
Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit www.europemustact.org/about-us.
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