On Sunday 1st March, thousands of migrants and refugees fled from Turkey to Greece after the Turkish government announced it would no longer prevent refugees from attempting to reach Europe.
Two days later, human rights activists and those volunteering with asylum seekers throughout the Greek islands have declared the barbaric situation an emergency.
Refugee charity, Help Refugees, which supports grassroots organisations across Idlib, Turkey and Greece, shared a devastating Whatsapp conversation with one volunteer in Greece who told:
“It’s a v [sic] scary time. Refugees and volunteers have been attacked. We’re hearing awful reports of boats in distress stuck at sea. And the hell people are arriving into is unimaginable. We’re providing support, but it’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring. I think of the child who drowned this morning and can’t bear it. These refugees could be your child, your mum, your dad. They just want safety for their families.”
With Turkey opening its borders, the highest ever number of refugees now find themselves trapped on the Greek islands.
With each hour that passes, more casualties are reported
Greek coastguards and border officers have responded with indescribable violence and brutality, with footage depicting a Greek coastguard attempting to capsize a dinghy carrying refugees while also firing shots in their direction. Already, the death of one child has been confirmed as a result of a migrant boat capsizing off the island of Lesvos.
Greek army and police have been filmed using tear gas and stun grenades on these vulnerable refugees while some locals have similarly resorted to violence in an attempt to deter new arrivals. With each hour that passes, more casualties are reported.
While it goes without saying that Greece ought to act in accordance with humanitarian law, it simply cannot deal with the situation alone
Yet, while it goes without saying that Greece ought to act in accordance with humanitarian law, it simply cannot deal with the situation alone. In recent years, the refugee crisis in Greece has spiralled into sheer chaos. There is capacity for just 6,178 individuals across the islands, yet 42,000 asylum seekers are currently residing there.
Over 70 NGOs have called upon the European Union to take immediate action to prevent further humanitarian disaster throughout Greece, urging the heads of member states and presidents of the European Council and European Commission to recognise their role in exacerbating the crisis.
Refugees and asylum seekers must not be treated as pawns in political disputes
Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has long threatened the EU with opening Turkey’s borders to allow refugees access to the continent. Refugees and asylum seekers must not be treated as pawns in political disputes; these are innocent human lives.