We need to act now to prevent asylum crisis on Greek islands this winter

EU countries must do more to protect refugees during current cold snap

All EU member states must immediately stop sending asylum seekers back to Greece under the Dublin system. That was one of a series of urgent measures called for by the S&D Group in a debate in the European Parliament today to prevent a humanitarian disaster occurring on the Greek islands this winter.

S&D Group vice-president responsible for human rights Elena Valenciano MEP said:

“Last year dozens of asylum seekers died from the cold in Europe. Thousands, including children, were left in unheated tents and dormitories for the whole winter. We have had a year to rectify this situation yet still large numbers do not have adequate protection for the coming months. As of 14 November, over 12,000 people are stranded in hotspots on the Greek islands, which are at more than twice their capacity. These include children, pregnant women, those with disabilities and other vulnerable people. They are still sleeping in light tents designed for the summer, on thin mats or even on the floor. The Council and Commission must work urgently with the Greek authorities to ensure that every asylum seeker is protected for the winter months. If we fail to act, then more people will die. It is as simple as that.

S&D Group vice-president responsible for migration Tanja Fajon MEP said:

“Winter is coming and our first priority must be protecting human life. However, we also need to act to relieve the pressure on the Greek asylum system. All member states should stop sending asylum seekers back to Greece under the Dublin mechanism immediately. Measures should be taken to move migrants to the Greek mainland, to reduce overcrowding and ensure better facilities are available. We also call for the lifting of geographical restrictions on the EU-Turkey deal, which is leaving thousands in limbo without hope of a better future.

“Many of the problems we are debating today would not exist if we had a truly European asylum policy. The European Parliament this week officially endorsed a radical reform of the current system - removing the principle that an asylum seeker is the responsibility of the first country in which they arrive in the EU. This puts huge pressure on the countries at the EU’s borders, which leads to the tragic consequences we saw last winter. We will push member states to finally ditch this broken system and replace it with one that shares responsibility for refugees in a fair and transparent way between all member states.”