15 March 2016 - Christian Aid has warned that unless the European Union takes greater action in response to the scale of the refugee crisis more people will risk their lives in order to leave Greece, where some 40,000 people are currently stranded.
The warning comes just days before an EU meeting with Turkey, which is set to finalise a series of proposals including the resettlement of one Syrian refugee in Europe for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands.
Ahead of the meeting Christian Aid has condemned the proposals as immoral, and potentially illegal. It recommends the EU instead focusses on ensuring that European countries take a fair and proportionate number of refugees, and provides safe and legal means for them to reach the EU, as a matter of urgency.
Sian Rowbotham, Senior Emergency Programme Officer at Christian Aid, who recently returned from Greece, commented: “Conditions in the country are worsening as the numbers of people who are unable to continue on their journey increases. I met many people who are no longer permitted to cross the Macedonia border and so are forced to remain in Greece. Many were confused and scared about the future.
“Smugglers are operating openly in locations where refugees gather with their families and there is a serious threat that with legal routes no longer available people will take dangerous risks to continue their journey, with women and children in particular danger.
“Just yesterday we saw the desperation of people trapped at the Greece-Macedonia border risking their lives by crossing a river to try to get into Macedonia. Tragically three people died in the attempt. It’s a disgrace that people who have already endured so much suffering are being made to endure even more in the pursuit of so-called sanctuary in Europe.”
The UN has said conditions at the Idomeni camp on the Greek border with Macedonia, where some 14,000 people are stranded, are becoming ‘unliveable’.
Despite borders being shut, thousands of people continue to arrive every day. More than 50,000 people arrived in Greece in February alone.
Responding to the announcement of the EU’s proposed deal with Turkey, Jenny Brown, Christian Aid’s Senior EU Relations Advisor, commented: “We have serious concerns that the agreement with Turkey appears to ride roughshod over the basic principles of treating people with dignity and in accordance of international law.
“The proposal to send people back on dangerous journeys and to places where they are not guaranteed protection is immoral and potentially illegal.”
In Europe, Christian Aid is working through the ACT Alliance to support humanitarian efforts in Greece and Serbia. In Greece the IOCC is providing food, water, hygiene kits and baby items on the islands of Chios, Samos and Kos. Christian Aid continues to work with our partners in Iraq and Lebanon in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. For more information on our work, visit the Christian Aid website.
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Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.
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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk