Open letter to Y. Mouzalas, Alternate Minister of Immigration Policy

Recommending policies as win-win strategies for both Greece and refugees

Kester Ratcliff

Dear Mr Mouzalas,

I read your comments  reported by Reuters yesterday, “Greece wants to send thousands of migrants back to Turkey in coming weeks”. I sympathise with your despair, I can imagine what it feels like to be forced to implement policies which you don’t really approve of and then blamed for doing it too. However, policies created out of despair do not tend to be realistic or rational in a long-term way, and I imagine you worry about that too. I wish you could take a holiday and then read and reflect on this when you’re more refreshed after a couple of weeks!
This is not just another criticism of Greece. I get it, I really do. The point of this letter is to suggest some policies that would be win-win strategies for both Greece and refugees. This doesn’t have to be a pro-refugees and anti-Greece vs. anti-refugees and pro-Greece debate. The four policies I propose, in brief, are:

1. Publicly and officially demand that the Temporary Protection Directive 2001 be activated. In the last two years, we have seen the clearest mass influx in the history of Europe since the aftermath of WW2, so for the rest of the EU to not acknowledge it as a ‘mass influx’ is just a dishonest way of evading their obligations. You do not have to stand for this any longer. The facts and the law are on your side, and a much larger share of European citizens would support you if you took a coherent principled stand, with positive alternative plans. Amnesty’s global survey of public attitudes to refugees found that in every country citizens are more welcoming of refugees than their governments, and the gap between public attitudes and government policy is widest in my own country, the UK. The EC and EuCo, naturally, only represent that share of public opinion which bays for their draconian approach, but the share of public opinion that would support you if you opposed them is not only comparable in numbers but qualitatively more committed in terms of democratic engagement and voluntary action.

2. Insist that the EU Relocation scheme, which is the only mechanism agreed so far to implement all Member States’ common obligation in Article 78(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU to practice solidarity and responsibility sharing when there is a mass influx of refugees into the EU, should be made to work properly. Not just token numbers, realistic numbers. We can all see that extreme slowness of the asylum procedures across Europe is not just due to lack of resources, administrative incompetence, or just a consequence of thoroughness, but is part of the overall political strategy of deterrence. However, as the Asylum Service said, inefficient asylum procedures are effectively a pull-factor for unfounded asylum claims, or I would suggest more specifically it makes it more likely that mass influxes will be more mixed and thus harder to fairly and efficiently assess who really needs international protection and who doesn’t. The European Council and Commission’s strategy of making the asylum procedures in Greece even slower by inserting admissibility interviews regarding Turkey, for political reasons having nothing objectively to do with the present or recent applicants’ claims, to increase waiting times and then use their desperation as a deterrent signal to others who might otherwise try to seek protection in Europe, probably is postponing another mass influx, but when it comes it will be more mixed and then even harder for Greece and Italy to deal with.

3. Refuse to carry out or make refugees wait longer for admissibility interviews before they get access to the EU Relocation scheme. This insertion of admissibility interviews into the Greek asylum procedures is for reasons totally different from the “rules of methodology” and “individual, objective and impartial assessments” in EU law. Comparison to the admissibility interview procedure in the context of Dublin III transfers is inapplicable, because the main objective of the Relocation Decision was to relieve the burdens on Greece and there was no such provision in the Relocation Decision for admissibility interviews before access to the EU Relocation scheme. If the Asylum Service and EASO respect the facts of each individual’s case, there will be no significant number of asylum seekers returned to Turkey. The asylum seekers now on the islands are going to be here indefinitely until politicians acknowledge reality and accept that it is necessary to find or make a solution, which should be relocation. If you stand up to the bullying by the European Council and the Commission rather than passing on the same kind of treatment onto refugees, many MEPs would support you in this - just call them, please.

4. Paragraph 25 of the Relocation Decision is discriminatory, because it permanently excludes individuals from eligibility for relocation based on general statistics about other people from their countries of origin. Relocation is not in itself a right, but whenever a State or an agreement of States grants a significant benefit to a certain group and not another based on a status, the difference in treatment must be proportionate to a legitimate objective. The legitimate objectives here are efficiency of the asylum system and not relocating a significant number of people who will later be found to have no needs for international protection and then incur further costs removing them. If the scheme positively presumed in favour of applicants as provided for in paragraph 25, but allowed beneficiaries of international protection from other countries of origin to access relocation after their substantive claims have been found to be well-founded, that would be proportionate to the legitimate objectives as well as non-discriminatory. Furthermore, increasing the scope of the Relocation scheme in this manner would also relieve the administrative and reception burdens on Greece even more.

Greece so far has been more humane and decent while in more economically and politically challenging circumstances than any other EU country. But the European Council and European Commission’s set of policies are so flagrantly unrealistic that they have no chance of succeeding even according to their own aims, which are evil. Greece is suffering from the same crisis of solidarity and forgetfulness of the common values which the European post-war peace was –and still is– founded on as the refugees are now suffering from.

The previous approach of Greece making common cause with the refugees and demanding that Europe live up to its claimed values and really practice solidarity and share responsibility for the common good was the right way. In working with refugees everyday, I have observed that despair is socially infectious, so for those of us working with refugees it is important for our own sanity and theirs to keep reminding ourselves to take courage and be determined about finding genuine solutions, and never giving up.

The refugees are, rightly, required to substantiate their claims, with detailed facts about what happened to them. How about you do the same with your claims? Or the other politicians in the European Council substantiate their claims? Never since the 1930s has the popularity of a political opinion or policy mattered so much more than its objective truthfulness.

This is a global problem of a swing to populism, across the political spectrum, not just on the right-wing, and it is not just a European problem. It has been characterised as a ‘Post-Truth’ political era. I am instinctively and dogmatically an egalitarian, but this consumeristic kind of populism which disregards or despises objectivity and thinks justice is merely a procedural technicality or a matter of opinion made by authorities and not a matter of truth that should concern every human being makes me seriously afraid for humanity in my lifetime. We are currently accelerating backwards in terms of human rights in practice and functional democracy in Europe, and Greece is on the frontline in more ways than one.

Returning “more than half” the asylum seekers on the islands now and “in full accordance with international law” is so unrealistic it is nonsense. It would be possible to return more than half the asylum seekers on the islands now, but, if objective facts matter at all in this process, it is certainly not possible to do so in full accordance with international law, or Greek law, or just common human natural sense of justice.

I am here every day for the last six weeks listening to the refugees’ stories. Listening and asking open questions to just draw out the facts. Speaking objectively and impartially, as asylum decisions are required to be by law, almost everyone has strong factual and legally pertinent reasons why Turkey is not safe for them and they cannot genuinely get asylum there.

I’ve listened to about 80 individuals now, for about an hour each. Honestly, if you were to listen to the detailed facts of what happened to them, you could not say that “more than half” should be found to have inadmissible claims in Greece. Some politicians refuse to acknowledge realities which they think their voters don’t like, but this does not actually change objective reality. This sort of political avoidance tactic actually leads to policies which make reality even worse and then the reality still has to be dealt with later. It would of course be a very good thing if Turkey genuinely became a safe third country, but it is clearly not now, and it is hard to imagine how it could really become a safe third country for decades starting from where they’re at in terms of functional democracy and human rights applied in practice now.

Almost everyone has been shot at by Turkish border guards or soldiers to force them back across the Syrian border, and many people were thus forced or terrorised back into Syria and made several attempts at crossing before they eventually got through Turkey. Several people told me they saw other refugees, including children, shot and killed while trying to cross the border. Many people said they were severely beaten by Turkish police or soldiers in prison, and in some cases it clearly crossed the line into torture. Many people either experienced being forced back to Syria on a previous attempt before they succeeded in getting across Turkey or were threatened with forcible return or expulsion to Syria when they were captured by Turkish police. This is not the behaviour of a State that “respects the principle of non-refoulement”. Refoulement is not exceptional in Turkey, it is routine and increasing since the EU’s interventions, and that is only one of five criteria in the safe third country concept.

Whereas Greece cannot offer jobs to most of the refugees here now, Turkey chooses not to register most of the 3 million refugees it ‘hosts’ for any sort of international or temporary protection status and give them work permits because keeping 85% of them unregistered means allowing them to work illegally so that they be illegally exploited and mistreated in work with no recourse to police protection because they are ‘illegal’. This is how Turkey has the highest number of refugees of any country worldwide now but also extraordinarily high economic growth, because it has gained a slave / trafficked persons labour force.

There is no significant proportion of inadmissible claims to be found here. Unless your administration is willing to completely ignore the facts of people’s cases or ignore the law, there is no way, no chance, to forcibly return any significant number of asylum seekers to Turkey legally. Even by gerrymandering the Appeals Authority committees, the appeals will still go onwards to the European courts, and the European Council and European Commission do not have as much undue influence there. If anything it could speed up the demise of the deal by hastening a European court judgement against the whole system.

Let’s be realistic - the EU-Turkey deal is not going to hold, and I’m sure you know the reasons better than me, and that’s why you’re so desperate to make it hold.
For the benefit of our mutual readers, let’s recap a few points it may fall at:

Firstly, it was founded on fantastical assumptions in the first place, because there never really was a significant proportion of inadmissible or unfounded claims here. Almost everyone here has strong reasons to need asylum, so claiming to return asylum seekers and other migrants to Turkey “in full accordance with international law” is literally preposterous.

Secondly, Erdogan is not going to keep on stopping the refugee boats leaving Turkey or pushing them back by any means necessary before they reach the EU frontier at the Greek territorial waters line when he realises he is not going to get visa-free Schengen travel for Turks, because there is no way Turkey can or is willing to go through the 73 legislative amendments required to make its legal system sufficiently compatible with European law. The EU’s payments for extraterritorial refoulement services are not enough to maintain the deal on their own, because the bribes collected by the smugglers’ networks, of course largely overlapping with the Turkish state authorities, are probably between half and about equal to the EU’s counter-bribes, which are as yet only pledged, and we both know what EU pledges of money are like at actually turning up on time.

Thirdly, there are at least 4 legal challenges going to the European courts so far just that I know of, and it only takes one of them to succeed to blow a big legal hole in the implementation of the deal. The European Parliament is also catching up and may even break out of its apparently merely advisory role at some point in the not-too-distant future.

You do not have to make policies out of despair. Greece does not have to continue to take the blame for being forced to implement at arm’s length Europe’s systematic human rights abuses.
Greece still could and should insist that the Temporary Protection Directive 2001 be activated. It is the only implementation system available and agreed so far for a constitutional commitment of all Member States, not essentially something optional. If Greece must pay its a pound of flesh, blood and all, because of mere contract law, the rest of Europe must observe fundamental human rights in practice which are more essential to justice. There has been no clearer instance of a ‘mass influx’ since the refugee mass movements after WW2, so the fact that the European Commission still refuses to acknowledge what this is and trigger the legal mechanism designed for this kind of situation, is nothing short of disingenuous.

At least it would be a wise contingency strategy to begin campaigning now to get the Temporary Protection Directive activated if or when the mass influx of Syrian refugees resumes again. Again, to do so would be a win-win strategy for Greece and the refugees.

Kester Ratcliff is a refugee solidarity volunteer and human rights activist. He is one of the coordinators for Calais Refugee Solidarity Bristol, Calais People to People Solidarity - Action from UK, and People to People Solidarity Southern/ South-Eastern Europe,


Refugee Accommodation Center City Plaza

Since the morning of 22/4/2016, the abandoned Hotel “City Plaza” in Athens has been turned into an Accommodation Centre for Refugees. Currently refugee families from different nationalities, together with hundreds of people of solidarity are working collectively for the cleaning, repairing and organization of space, so that it can open soon as a project of self-organization and solidarity, as a center of struggle against racism and exclusion, for the right to free movement, decent living conditions and equal rights.

The Solidarity Initiative to Economic and Political Refugees invites everyone to practical and material support of the Accommodation Centre “City Plaza”. For the next few days and as long as there are works in progress in the building, it will not be possible to accommodate more refugees.

From the summer 2015 and on, Europe and Greece have been found unable to respond to the issues emerging from the largest refugees’ wave in their territory, since the World War II, in the source of which there can be found the declaration and act of war, on a military as well as an economic level, from the countries of the North to the countries of the South, which has lead their populations to poverty, fear and oppression.

This fact has created two very distinctive and opposed tendencies: the first is expressed by the activation of racist reflexes, which can be found in the core of the European continent: fences and walls have been built; FRONTEX and NATO have been invited in order to “protect” the borders; deportations and brutal oppression of refugees.  It is clearly expressed through the racist agreement between the E.U. and Turkey, which violates the Geneva Convention and every humanist value, as it copes with the refugee issue as if refugees were a merchandise that can be part of a transaction; it also leads to an unthinkable number of deportations towards countries in which their life and freedom is compromised.

The second tendency is the one expressed by the huge wave of solidarity in Greece, as well as in Europe. Millions of people were found side by side with the refugees in their battle to cross the borders and overcome all kinds of difficulties through their journey. People in solidarity in Athens, in August 2015, took immediate action in Pedion Areos, thousands of people from all over the world have come to Lesvos and other Aegean islands, in order to contribute to the efforts of the people there. Europe has known the largest wave of solidarity and mutual aid in the last decades. This mobilization is bearing the hope for a resurgence of the society, in order to erase the danger to see Europe becoming a “Dark Continent” again.

The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees has taken action, for quite some time now, within this movement of solidarity, in the centre of Athens. It has brought out the fight of the refugees; stopped the efforts to create “apartheid” areas, without the presence of refugees; pointed out the responsibilities of the Greek government, which not only did they fail to secure the accommodation, protection and free passing of the refugees, but also signed the racist agreement and took the responsibility to implement it.

From now on, our needs go to a different level. Europe’s political agenda of closed borders basically determines the conditions under which a number of political and economic refugees, who initially had the intention to move on towards northern countries, are now stuck in Greece. Without foregoing for a moment our basic demand for open borders and our fight against closed ones, we feel the need to gather our forces toward the creation of decent living conditions of refugees in Greece, in our neighborhoods, with full rights in all social services.

In this framework, all along with our constant demand for immediate accommodation of the refugees, not in camps, military or not, but in appropriate buildings with full infrastructure, where they will be able to move freely in and out, we decided to occupy this building: on the one hand, we wanted to contribute, within our grasp, with a solution to the problem; on the other hand, we felt the need to have a place where information and coordination for refugees’ issues would take place.

Our decision does not release the Greek or any other government from their responsibilities to immediately provide all refugees with accommodation and protection. However, it points out that solidarity can be the driving force which will stand up against any racist plans of the European countries and it will see to the protection of all refugees, in the direction of full integration, next to the local workers and oppressed people. There have been several attempts, right after the racist agreement between E.U.-Turkey, from the media and the government, to demonize and attack solidarity, which was considered to be responsible for the fact that the refugees stand up for their rights.

It is rather clear that if the status of exception, which has been planned for the refugees, proves to be successful, it will be used as a model to other parts of the society, which, during the last years, have experienced the brutal agenda of poverty, oppression and exclusion.

We declare that we will stand to the side of the refugees, people in solidarity and workers who, during all these years, have fought for the rights to education and health, accommodation and food for refugees, against the criminal politics of closed borders, which, up to now, has killed thousands of people, against ghettos far from the city centre, where refugees will be “invisible”.

The Solidarity Initiative for Economic and Political Refugees invites the workers in solidarity to participate in this effort, in the Refugee Accommodation Center City Plaza and every other independent solidarity structure.

Let’s create a world of mutual aid and co-existence.

Against racism, solidarity. We will all live together.

– Down with the shameful agreement between E.U.-Turkey. Open borders, safe passages for refugees.

– Full legalization of all refugees. No deportation to Turkey or elsewhere.

– Accommodation for all refugees in appropriate buildings, within the city core. Requisition of hotels and empty houses for refugees’ accommodation.

– Free access to health and education services for all refugees. Participation of the refugees’ children to programs of school insertion.

– Closing of all detention centers, no exclusion of refugees from the cities.

– No criminalization of the solidarity movement.

Solidarity Initiative

for Economic and Political Refugees

Saturday night with the refugees in Idomeni

Report rom a delegation of the Hellenic League for Human rights to the Nea Kavala hospitality structure and the camp in Idomeni

Kostis Tsitselikis, Meriç Özgüneş, Vivi Verbi

Report, 05.03.2016. Following our previous visits to refugee accommodation, in an attempt to comprehend the issues requiring intervention for the promotion of solutions based on the principles of social justice, we hereby present the findings from our visits to the two camps.

The refugee camp in Nea Kavala, accessible through the road bordering the village, and which is in close proximity to a supermarket, has been in operation for a week, and hosts approximately 3,000 refugees. It is an open structure, without restrictions on exit. It is operated exclusively by the military, that is, there is no civilian staff from the Ministry of Interior/Migration, which creates an issue regarding whose jurisdiction the camp is under.  The camp lies outside the Diavata- Idomeni axis (though very close to the latter), and very few organizations visit it, so that very few humanitarian aid materials are available. We realized this as we were handing over what little milk, toys, clothes and medicines we had. Aid is not distributed following a system, as no civilian staff is available to carry out this work.  We were particularly impressed by the staff which was present (7 people in total, all military), and by the lieutenant in charge of the camp (who performs his duties on a shift basis), and who appeared to be fully aware of his duties, responsibilities, as well as of objective restrictions, as there is no aid, infrastructure or sufficient staff available.

The military is in charge of providing food, using a field kitchen, which covers the needs of refugees with 3 meals/day, but without guarantee that this will continue to be the case following new arrivals. One doctor is based permanently at the camp. However, the tents appear to be entirely inappropriate for the weather at this time of year, as they do not close from below, while there is also no heating. 50 portable toilets do not sufficiently cover the needs of the refugee population. There is some electrical lighting in certain places, but not throughout the camp. The refugees we met with were not dressed appropriately for the weather.  We saw children with no shoes on. The refugees are staying in the camp without incident, waiting until they can continue their journey to Idomeni, where the much coveted border crossing is located, while withstanding all the  inadequacies in the camp (as regards both infrastructure and services).  The camp, at the state in which it was when we visited, could not possibly meet the standards for infrastructure and services, in spite of the goodwill that the staff demonstrates.

The camp in Idomeni, approximately 20km north of Nea Kavala, continues to grow, as the number of people leaving it has for the past few weeks remained very small. We will not repeat what is already known with regard to living conditions, as media and other coverage is ongoing. We must stress that the state is absent from the camp, barring a few police officers surveying the final 100 metres leading to the «exit gate».

Approximately 4,000 of the 14,000 people are camped inside large tents, which until recently formed the relatively «contained» camp, while most of them are camped in the area around those large tents, in makeshift shelters or without any shelter at all. Most of them have no access to heating (the large tents being the exception), with few portable toilets which do not cover needs, with very light meals and insufficient running water; many set out to the village of Idomeni on foot, or even to Polikastro, to take a shower. We spoke to an Iraqi family, who mentioned that police do not allow taxis to approach the camp, thereby putting more stress on the already exhausted people seeking the bare necessities outside of the camp.  Small fires for heating, burning wood or (mainly) garbage, make for a very stuffy atmosphere. As regards the presence of organizations, UNHCR, doctors, those preparing food and more generally all those providing all kinds of aid, there is no need to report anything beyond what is already known;  they provide the only significant amount of aid (which is randomly distributed, however) to desperate, exhausted and ill people (many of whom are elderly and small children), living in adverse conditions, in the hope of crossing the border.

Police officers in the «border crossing zone» appeared polite, making every effort to do something amidst the chaos, which is largely self-regulated but also inappropriate for the country as a whole. Following a detailed account by a police officer, we realized that only certain refugees may cross the border (that is, only Syrians or Iraqis holding passports or hotspot entry documents - to the degree that this is permitted by Austria and the Balkan states between Greece and Austria), on the basis of their date of entry into Greece.  For example, on the day of our visit, only those who entered Greece on 18th February were allowed to cross the border. Yet this was not widely known, except by those who had access to this information, which in turn created congestion in the area surrounding the border gate.  Those who did not make it, had the right to cross on the following day, and so on.

As a result, the congestion and generally indescribable situation in Idomeni could be avoided using a system for disseminating information, and of course through the creation of 12,000 places for refugees to stay in the wider area, even similar to the conditions in the Nea Kavala camp, assuming that the periods of stay would be pretty short. Many problems would have been solved through the organized transport of those who do have a right to cross the border on the basis of the admittedly rational criterion of date of entry. In the end, the numerous international television channels with their satellite connections –who take up the main «road» of the «camp»– feed into the European and global discussion by shaping positions and contributing to political decision-making on an issue which, had there been sufficient political will and coordination, would not exist. At least not in the manner described above.

The Hellenic League for Human Rights (HLHR) is the oldest human rights organization in Greece (set up in 1936). HLHR operates with a continuous presence and activity in line with its statute, namely the protection of human rights in Greece. Since its establishment is a permanent member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and represents this network in Greece and participates in its organs.

Translated by Despina Biri


Welcome the Refugees to Europe: A Moral and Political Necessity!

 M. Agier, H. Arenz, A. Athanasiou, W. Bajer, É. Balibar, M. Bouazi, H. Bozarslan, M.-C. Caloz-Tschopp, E. Delruelle, M. De Nanteuil,  A. Insel, N. Klotz, A. Latimer, C. Louis, G. Marramao, R. Martelli, S. Mezzadra, M. Nikolakaki, B. Spineli, E. Tassin, H. Venema, F.-O. Wolf et. al.

You can sign the petition here.

We, citizens of the Member States of the European Union, of the Schengen Area, the Balkans, of the Mediterranean, and of the Middle East as well as citizens of other countries in the world, who share our concerns, are launching an emergency appeal to our co-citizens, to our government leaders and our representatives in national parliaments and in the European Parliament, as well as in the European Court of Human Rights and in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:The refugees from the Middle East must be rescued and welcomed !

For years now, immigrants from the southern Mediterranean fleeing poverty, war, and repression have been drowning at sea or been dashed against barbed wire. When they have succeeded in crossing the sea, after suffering extortion at the hands of smuggler rings, they are expelled, incarcerated, or thrown into clandestinity by the states who designate them as ‘dangers’ and ‘enemies’. Despite this, they are courageously persevering and helping each other to save their lives and create hope of a future.

But since the wars of the Middle East and especially in Syria have assumed the proportions of mass slaughter with no end in sight, the scale of the situation has altered. Held hostage between the warring parties, bombed, starved, and terrorised, entire populations have been thrown into a perilous exodus that, at the price of thousands more dead, pushes men, women, and children towards neighbouring countries and knocking at Europe’s doors.

This is a major historic and humanitarian catastrophe. It presents us with a responsibility of which there is no way out.

The incapacity of the governments of all our countries to put an end to the causes of this exodus (if they are not indeed contributing to their exacerbation) does not exonerate them of the obligation to save and welcome the refugees, while respecting their fundamental rights, which, with the right to asylum, are enshrined in the foundational declarations and conventions of international law.

However, with few exceptions – Germany’s exemplary initiative, an initiative that has still not been suspended today; and the gigantic effort by Greece to rescue, welcome, and escort the thousands of survivors who daily arrive on their shores, even if its economy has been plunged into devastating austerity – Europe’s governments have refused to face the overall situation, to explain it to their populations, and to organise solidarity and go beyond national egoisms. On the contrary, from east to west and north to south, they have rejected the minimal plan for distributing the refugees worked out by the European Commission or are involved in sabotaging it. Worse, they are engaging in repression, stigmatisation, and the brutalisation of refugees and immigrants in general. The situation of the ‘jungle’ of Calais, followed now by its violent dismantling, in disregard for the spirit and letter of a court decision, is a scandalous, though not the only, illustration of this.

By contrast, it is the citizens of Europe and elsewhere – fishermen and inhabitants of Lampedusa and Lesbos, activists of refugee relief and immigrant support networks, lay and religious shelter centres, endorsed by artists and intellectuals – who have saved their honour and pointed the way to a solution. However, they are running up against insufficient means, and sometimes the hostility of public authorities, and they have to face, like the refugees and immigrants themselves, a rapidly growing European xenophobic front ranging from violent, openly racist or neo-fascist organisations to ‘respectable’ political leaders and governments increasingly overtaken by authoritarianism, nationalism, and demagoguery. Two completely incompatible Europes are facing each other, and from now on we have to choose between them.

This xenophobic tendency, which is deadly for the victims of violence and ruinous for the future of the European continent as an space of liberty must be reversed immediately.

With 60 million refugees in the world, Lebanon and Jordan receive a million of them each (representing, respectively, 20 per cent and 12 percent of their populations), and Turkey receives 2 million (3 per cent). The million refugees who arrived in Europe in 2015 (one of the richest regions in the world, despite the crisis) only represent 0.2 per cent of its population! Not only do the European countries, taken as a whole, have the means to welcome the refugees and treat them with dignity but they must do so in order to continue to lay claim to human rights as the foundation of their polities. It is also in their interest if they want to begin to recreate the conditions for peace and collective security, along with all the countries of the Mediterranean area that have shared the same history and same cultural heritage for thousands of years. And this is what has to be done to remove from our horizon, once and for all, the spectre of a new epoch of organised institutional discrimination and of the elimination of ‘undesirable’ human beings.

Nobody can say when and in what proportion the refugees will ‘go back home’, and nobody should underestimate the difficulty of the issue to be solved, of the resistance which it generates, and the obstacles and dangers it carries with it. But nobody can continue to ignore the will of the populations to receive refugees and the refugees’ wish to integrate. Nobody has the right to declare the problem unresolvable in order to evade it more easily.

Very large-scale emergency measures thus are needed immediately.

The task to provide assistance to the refugees from the Middle East and Africa in the framework of a state of emergency has to be proclaimed and implemented by the governing bodies of the EU and carried by all the Member States. It has to be upheld by the United Nations and be the object of a permanent consultation with democratic states of the whole region.

Civilian and military forces have to be deployed, not to carry out a coastal guerrilla action against the ‘smugglers’ but to bring aid to the immigrants and to put an end to the scandal of the drownings at sea. It is in this framework that it will possibly be necessary to crack down on the traffic and condemn the complicity that benefits from it. It is prohibiting legal access that generates Mafioso practices, and not the inverse.

The burden of the frontline receiving countries, in particular Greece, must immediately be relieved. Their contribution to the common interest must be recognised.

The Schengen free-circulation area must be preserved, but the Dublin Regulation that provides for pushing immigrants back to the entry country must be suspended and renegotiated. The EU is pressuring [[OR: should pressure? ! ]] Danube and Balkan countries to reopen their borders and negotiate with Turkey to convince it to stop using refugees as a political-military excuse and bargaining chip.

At the same time, air and sea transport has to be operated to transfer all the registered refugees to the northern European countries that are objectively able to receive them instead of letting them accumulate in a small country in danger of becoming a ‘dumping ground’ for humanity.

In the longer term, Europe – facing one of the great challenges that is changing the course of the history of peoples – has to develop a democratically controlled aid plan for the survivors of this huge slaughter and for those who are helping them. It has to establish not only receiving quotas but also social and educational aid, and therefore a special budget and legal provisions guaranteeing new rights that embed the displaced populations in the receiving societies in a dignified and peaceful way.

There is no other alternative. It is either hospitality and the right to asylum or barbarism!

This appeal was initiated, among others, by:
Michel AGIER (France), Horst ARENZ (Germany), Athéna ATHANASIOU (Greece), Walter BAIER (Austria), Etienne BALIBAR (France), Marie BOUAZZI (Tunisia), Hamit BOZARSLAN (France), Marie-Claire CALOZ-TSCHOPP ( Switzerland), Edouard DELRUELLE (Belgium), Matthieu DE NANTEUIL (Belgium), Ahmet INSEL (Turquie), Nicolas KLOTZ (France), Amanda LATIMER (UK), Camille LOUIS (France), Giacomo MARRAMAO (Italy), Roger MARTELLI (France), Sandro MEZZADRA (Italy), Maria NIKOLAKAKI (Greece), Barbara SPINELLI (Italy), Étienne TASSIN (France), Hans VENEMA (Netherlands), Frieder Otto WOLF (Germany).

First published on transform!, 4.3.2016

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