NEW YORK, NY – The High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell Fontelles announced plans Sunday to convene an “extraordinary meeting” of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in the coming week to discuss ongoing violence in Idlib, Syria, and the subsequent influx of Syrian refugees passing through Turkey on the way to Greece. The increase in refugees approaching the Greek border follows a recent decision by the Turkish government to ease border restrictions.
The Greek government announced it will suspend asylum claims while reports emerged of its security forces using violence, including tear gas and batons, against the refugees.
In advance of the EU meeting, Joan Timoney, vice president of external relations for the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:
“EU ministers must finally come together and agree on an EU-wide asylum and migration policy in line with human rights, in particular the principle of non-refoulement, freedom of movement, and the right to be free from all forms of violence. We call on the EU, as well as Greek and Turkish authorities, to address the urgent protection needs of migrants and refugees without further delay. We also call on security forces to refrain from using violence.
“The images coming out of Greece are deeply disturbing. This latest crisis is the result of years of failure by the EU to address the deeply flawed agreement made between Turkey and the EU, as well as inaction to craft a sustainable solution. Now, refugees and strained host communities are paying the price with the situation worsening by the hour.
“The unacceptable conditions in camps, including on Lesbos, Greece, have been well documented. Flawed processes and chronic understaffing, as well as overcrowded camps, have unnecessarily put asylum seekers at great protection risks, especially women, girls, and unaccompanied children. Women and girls are at heightened risk of gender-based violence, as are other groups that face stronger exclusion, such as LGBTQI refugees or persons with disabilities.
“We urge the EU to use its upcoming gathering to take long overdue steps to protect migrants and refugees and to take action that will advance their protections and their rights.”