Humanitarian Concerns on EU’s Southern Frontier

Humanitarian concerns on EU’s southern frontier

Amnesty International has expressed its anxiety over arrangements for the Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) which is being deployed along the Greek-Turkish border. The organisation has strong misgivings over a policy which is entirely focused on preventing ‘irregular migrants’ from entering the European Union. Amnesty International understands that all officers participating in this RABIT operation at every stage of deployment are expected to observe fundamental human rights, but it is unclear how this can be ensured in practice.

Among Amnesty International’s concerns are:-

• Uncertainty over what training guards have received before deployment and their experience in identifying people who need international protection
• Doubts over the nature of expert support the Agency has received in planning the operation regarding protection-sensitive aspects
• The nature of measures taken to help Greece set up adequate reception facilities where people can be screened, their asylum requests handled and basic needs satisfied
• The degree of access to these facilities available to humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and provision for legal assistance

To see the full letter from Amnesty International to the Belgian Presidency, click here.

Nicolas Beger, the Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions office said: “We can’t stress enough the need for a clear framework of cooperation between the Greek authorities and Frontex so any decisions which are taken on the treatment of irregular migrants can be reviewed. We also believe all transfers to Greece should be halted immediately, as conditions for migrants there are degrading.”

“It’s paradoxical that in the context of the RABIT deployment, EU countries have sent staff to Greece in a show solidarity, while they are putting pressure on the Greeks by transferring asylum seekers there under the Dublin II Regulation,” said Beger. This rule is based on the principle that the first country where asylum seekers arrive must handle their claims.

Amnesty international has welcomed the recent decision by several EU countries to suspend the return of migrants to Greece, although it believes this move has come too late for many vulnerable people. “The Dublin system must be urgently revised,” said Beger. “So long as it is based on the false premise that there are equal standards of protection across Europe, the system will be inherently dysfunctional and unfair to asylum seekers.”