EU should bear responsibility for refugees: NGO

Human rights organizations criticize EU states, Germany for harsher measures towards refugees, shifting responsibility on Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan

EU should bear responsibility for refugees: NGO

World Bulletin / News Desk

Human rights organization ProAsyl’s director Gunter Burkhardt has criticized new measures of the EU and Germany to address the refugee crisis, saying that they are trying to shift their responsibility onto Syria’s neighbors.

“I suspect that the EU will increase pressure on Greece to close the Turkish-Greek border in order to stop travel of Syrians and Afghans,” Burkhardt told Anadolu Agency.

“Europe is leaving human rights aside, and trying to shift responsibility of accepting refugees onto countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They deny their responsibility for the people that flee their homes,” he said.

Facing the biggest refugee influx since the WWII, EU leaders gathered at an extraordinary summit in Brussels last week and agreed to strengthen EU’s external borders and fight smugglers.

They also decided to establish refugee camps in frontline member states Greece and Italy, where refugees will have to register and wait for months during the examination of their application by European authorities.

EU member states agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees across Europe, while more than 500,000 migrants and refugees have entered Europe so far this year, mostly through Greece and Italy, according to European border agency Frontex.

Some 2,921 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean.

- Legal ways for asylum seekers

ProAsyl director Burkhardt said the EU’s recent measures focused on better patrolling external borders or fighting smugglers, but these would not be a solution to the refugee crisis.

He called on European states to promote safe and legal ways for asylum seekers who escape civil wars and conflicts.

“Europe should first allow Syrian, Iraqi citizens who have relatives in European countries to travel through legal ways. We need legal routes for travelling to Europe, but that does not exist. Therefore refugees are trying to come to Europe through illegal ways,” he said.

Burkhardt criticized German authorities for not facilitating visa procedures for the Syrians and Iraqis who escaped civil war.

He said they have to wait more than a year to have an appointment to apply for visa at German consulates in Turkey.

- Germany adopts harsher measures

Among the EU states, Germany faces the biggest refugee influx, as authorities expect a record 800,000 asylum applications this year, four times the last year's total.

The German government moved to adopt a stricter asylum policy this week, with government finalizing a draft legislation, which cuts many social benefits for the asylum seekers, and makes it easier for authorities to reject applications of those “economic migrants” mainly coming from Western Balkan countries.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere defended the draft at parliament on Wednesday, claiming that the social benefits have turned to be a kind of “pulling effect” for the economic migrants from Balkan countries, who overstretched German immigration agency with tens of thousands of asylum applications.

De Maiziere claimed that with new legislation, authorities will accelerate processing asylum applications from Balkan countries and the majority of those migrants who did not face political persecution will be sent back to their countries.

He argued that the new legislation will include measures to promote integration of asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq, and will also make it easier for them to enter labor market.

- Amnesty criticizes draft

Amnesty International criticized the new legislation and stressed that restrictions on right to asylum were in contradiction with the German constitution and basic human rights.

“Amnesty International criticizes the plans of the government to reduce the social benefits for the asylum seekers. As our Constitutional Court already declared in 2012, these social benefits cannot be below a certain threshold,” Amnesty International’s asylum expert Wiebke Judith told Anadolu Agency.

She also criticized the move of the German government to include Western Balkan countries to a list of “safe countries of origin”, in order to enable authorities to easily reject asylum applications from these countries. 

“We do not agree with this concept in general and also we find that the human rights situation on the Balkans is not as clear,” Judith said.

Judith also expressed concern over EU plans to establish first accommodation camps in Greece and Italy, underlining that “It is absolutely necessary that there is human rights compliant conditions in such camps, and a fair asylum procedure is guaranteed for the refugees.

“And also afterwards it would be absolutely necessary that recognition of these refugees is accepted by other EU member states and they would enjoy the right to freedom of movement in the EU,” she added.

- Cooperation with Turkey

Harald Lohlein, an asylum expert from Der Paritaettischer, a charity organization providing support for refugees, said the EU should assume more responsibility and offer more help to countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where authorities are overburdened by the refugee influx from Syria and Iraq.

“If one wants to address this refugee crisis, this can only be done together with others, but at the moment each state is putting responsibility on to other state. It is clear that Turkey plays a significant role in finding a solution to the refugee problem. One has to find a common strategy,” he stressed.

EU leaders decided last week to “reinforce cooperation and dialogue with Turkey at all levels”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will pay a visit to Brussels on Monday for political talks with the EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk, and their talks are expected to focus on Syria and the refugee crisis.

Turkey is currently hosting the world’s largest refugee population, including 1.9 million Syrians, and has spent around $8 billion over the last five years.

Ankara has long advocated for the creation of “safe zones” in northern Syria, but could not receive enough backing from its European partners, which expressed concerns over difficulties in protecting the civilian population against possible attacks.

The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 250,000 lives since 2011, according to the UN, and created a security vacuum that paved the way for extremist groups such as ISIL to gain a foothold in the region.

Al-Assad regime has been accused of killing tens of thousands of Syrians with indiscriminate aerial bombings, including those carried out by using toxic chemicals and barrel bombs.

Last Mod: 01 Ekim 2015, 09:19
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