Spokesperson availability: Leaders at EU Summit must do more to resolve global refugee crisis

A pair of shoes seen on a fence at the overflow camp at Kara Tepe near Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesvos, 2015. © Michael S Honegger

Amnesty International

Media Advisory

(Brussels, 25 June 2015) European Union (EU) leaders should ensure effective solutions to meet the growing global refugee crisis and more equitable responsibility sharing across the EU, said Amnesty International today ahead of the EU Summit in Brussels. As heads of state and government from the 28 EU countries meet to discuss European Commission proposals included in the European Agenda on Migration, and the financial situation in Greece, the organisation is also releasing research on the "other’’ crisis in Greece, a humanitarian one, where the refugee support system has been pushed to the breaking point.

EU leaders must acknowledge that the strains on frontline countries such as a Greece and Italy are the product of Europe’s failed migration policies. The recent Amnesty International fact-finding mission to the Greek islands (Chios and Lesvos) and follow-up research reveal that new arrivals – including children – face appalling reception conditions. Poor planning, ineffective use of EU funds, and a hiring freeze has left Greek authorities incapable of meeting the needs and protecting the rights of refugees.

Each month the humanitarian crisis worsens. Concerted action by the Greek authorities (including the provision of coastguards, police and first reception authorities on the islands) but also EU leaders is needed in response to this crisis. Whilst the implementation of EU relocation plans may take some pressure off frontline member states in the short term, to comprehensively tackle the global refugee crisis, more safe and legal routes must be offered to people in need of protection.

One such measure that Amnesty International has been calling for is an increased number of resettlement places for refugees. The European Commission’s proposal for an EU wide resettlement scheme involving all member states, on top of existing national resettlement schemes included in the European Agenda on Migration, is a good idea but the numbers proposed fall far short of what would be an adequate response to the global refugee crisis. As such, Amnesty International is urging member states to support at a minimum the European Resettlement Scheme for 20,000 refugees, on top of existing national schemes. In addition, humanitarian admissions and visas for people in need of international protection should be increased, and family reunification for refugees facilitated.

As Fortress Europe is increasingly sealing its land borders, safe and legal routes and effective access to asylum at land borders are urgently needed to ensure vulnerable people aren’t forced to take dangerous sea journeys. Heads of state and government are also expected to further discuss additional phases of the anti-smuggling EU naval operation EUNAVFOR Med (phase 1, surveillance and intelligence gathering was agreed at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday 22 June), Amnesty International is calling for any operation to be human rights compliant and for any assets committed to search and rescue not to be channeled away to any military operation.

Iverna McGowan, Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office’s Acting Director, and Amnesty International migration and asylum experts will be available for interview on Europe’s response to the refugee crisis and necessary steps to manage migration to Europe, and country specific research.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Maeve Patterson
Head of Media & Communications
Amnesty International European Institutions Office
Email: [email protected]
Telephone:  +32 (0)2 548 27 73
Mobile:  +32 (0)483 680 812
Twitter: @mpatt79
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