Ankara, Turkey – “Greece – Violation of refugees’ human rights is unjustifiable” – International Federation for Human Rights

The original collective statement on the situation of refugees in Greece is available at

Collective Statement on the situation of refugees in Greece

The signatories acknowledge the recent decision of the Greek Government to increase the level of deterrence at the borders to the maximum, to stop the registration of asylum applications for one month and to turn back to their country of origin or their country of transit anyone trying to enter into Greece illegally, following the Turkish authorities’ declaration to open its borders and to allow refugees to enter Greece.

The Greek Prime Minister claims that these measures are adopted in compliance with Article 78.3 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – however, this provision does not allow any unilateral decision of a Member State nor does it neutralise the obligation for the European Union and the Member States to respect European law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.

The statements above take place in the context of significant violations of human rights reported from all sides regarding the treatment of refugees who are held in overcrowded hotspots in the Greek Aegean Islands, whether in relation to their basic needs (including proper housing, hot water, food, heating and sanitation) or to their access to justice (including access to a lawyer, to effective remedies against detention or deportation, and to a fair and transparent procedure for their asylum application) and the general malfunctioning of the Greek asylum system.

The signatories issue a strong reminder that the European Union “is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law” as stated by the Preamble of the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights and Article 2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The signatories strongly condemn all violation of human rights of those seeking asylum in the European Union. On no account does the protection of the EU’s external borders exempt EU Member States from their obligations under European law, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights or the Geneva Convention on Refugees (1951), which all prohibit putting into jeopardy the right to life and which support the right not to receive inhumane or degrading treatment; the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers; and the right to asylum and international protection for all displaced persons.

None of the current Greek practices of (a) suspending registration of asylum applications (b) pushing back refugees arriving from Turkey (c) deporting refugees back to their countries of origin or countries of transit where they will face continued persecution or (d) containing refugees in overcrowded camps without access to basic needs and access to law, are compatible with international and European laws on human rights.

The signatories urge:

• EU institutions and Member States, while applying Article 78.3 of the Treaty, to take all appropriate urgent measures to resettle and relocate refugees – including both the recent arrivals from Turkey as well as those currently living in overcrowded camps on the Greek Aegean Islands – in acknowledgement of the core EU principles of freedom, equality, solidarity and human dignity;

• EU institutions and Member States to guarantee to all persons reaching European territory an immediate access to the right to asylum and to refuse to adopt and to condemn and sanction any law or measure aiming to suspend the application of this right or seeking to return refugees to countries where they risk exposure to human rights violations (infringing European and international law, including within the framework of the application of Article 78.3 of the Treaty);

• EU institutions and Member States to ensure implementation of the 2001/55/CE Directive, specifically adopted to address a large influx of displaced persons in order to grant them a temporary protection;

• Greek and Turkish authorities to immediately cease all measures jeopardizing the life and dignity of refugees or involving use of force against refugees, in violation of European and international law, and for the European institutions and Member States to condemn and sanction these policies instead of supporting them;

• EU institutions and Member States to revise their migration policy aiming to externalize the responsibility of migration management to countries not offering sufficient guarantees to respect human rights, and

• All parties involved to respect human rights and the principle of the Rule of Law, which are guaranteed by the Treaties and the European and international law on human rights and refugees.

Migrants’ Rights

3.2% of the world’s population are international migrants. This figure includes refugees fleeing persecution or fear of persecution, persons displaced by environmental factors, those who leave their country of origin to seek employment and retired persons from Northern countries in search of sunshine. The percentage has remained stable for years, yet the reasons for migration – voluntary or forced – have become increasingly complex and the countries of destination more diverse.

Given the attraction of emerging economies (Brazil, India, China) and oil-producing countries such as the Gulf states and several African countries, the majority of migration takes place towards the Southern hemisphere (south-south or north-south), or from one country in the North to another. Despite this, states in the Northern hemisphere remain obsessed by a fear of “invasion” by poor migrants from the Global South.

As a result of ever-increasing controls on migration, the vulnerability of migrant persons to violations of their human rights is exacerbated. While the United States continues to “protect” itself by an illusory wall, Europe strengthens controls at its external borders, with the help of Frontex, forcing exiles to take ever more dangerous routes which often lead to death, gradually transforming the Mediterranean sea into a vast cemetery. These policies prioritise economic and security interests over respect for human rights. Meanwhile, the responses provided by international institutions remain widely inadequate.

The protection of the rights of migrant persons is one of FIDH’s priorities.

  • Through its network of members and partners in countries of departure, transit and arrival, FIDH documents violations of the human rights of migrant persons throughout their journeys and calls on national authorities to adopt legal and political reforms. FIDH participates in the campaign for the universal ratification of the Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families;
  • FIDH fights against impunity of perpetrators of violations of the human rights of migrant persons, including through strategic litigation;
  • FIDH denounces the failure of European migration policy and calls on the EU to overhaul its approach in order to protect human rights.

European Union

The European Union (EU) has long been committed to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They are the core values on which the EU is founded and respect for human rights is a prerequisite to EU membership, a condition for the legality of its actions and a central element of its external relations.

However, the effectiveness of European policies in preventing and responding to violations and in garnering progress in this field must be questioned. Migration and asylum policies, austerity policies, security and counter-terrorism policies, economic and trade policies, corporate regulations, all remain problematic, sometimes even paving the way to serious violations of civil and political rights as well as economic and social rights.

All these policies need to be thoroughly reformed in order to ensure respect and promotion of human rights and to reinforce the rule of law. Similarly, the strengthening of human rights, democracy and the rule of law must be defended at all times, in all places and under all circumstances. This priority must be upheld at every occasion and in all aspects of the EU’s relations with third countries. Yet here again, the coherency of its policies and the commitment and effectiveness of its actions must be questioned.

FIDH, through its documentation and advocacy activities before the EU institutions, mobilizes the EU to respond to these internal challenges, reform its policies, improve impact assessments, create adequate protection mechanisms and use all the levers at its disposal to promote the respect and protection of human rights on the international scene and in neighbouring and partner countries. To achieve these goals, FIDH facilitates meetings between its member leagues and the various European institutions.

European migration policy

The European Union pursues a policy of closure, focusing on border security with the support of its agency Frontex. The lack of safe and legal routes into the EU push people to take more dangerous routes and to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.

The EU seeks to put more and more responsibility for controlling migration on countries of departure and transit to the south of the Mediterranean, including North African countries, where grave violations of the rights of migrant persons continue.
In the face of the crisis of European migration policy, FIDH advocates for:

  • The creation of safe and legal routes into Europe (granting visas, increasing resettlement, facilitating family reunification, abolishing airport transit visas…);
  • The repeal of the Dublin regulation and guaranteeing the right of migrant persons to make a request for asylum in the country of their choice;
  • Ending all cooperation in the area of migration with states of origin and transit which do not respect the human rights of migrant persons.

Migrant workers

Migrant workers, especially those with irregular administrative status, are victims of multiple violations of their human rights, in countries of destination where they are often exploited by employers, as well as countries of transit. In the Gulf states, migrant workers are trapped by the sponsor (“kafala”) system which ties them to their employers and prevents them changing jobs or even leaving the country.

In the Dominican Republic, Haitian agricultural workers on sugar cane plantations have no social protection. In Russia, repression against migrant workers mainly from Central Asia is growing, with arbitrary arrests, violence and deportations.

The Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families, adopted by the United Nations in 1990, has been ratified by increasing numbers of states but by none of the member states of the European Union.

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