Jesuits' grave concern over EU's refugee policies

A mother carries a baby on her shoulders after refugees arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece. Credit: Darrin Zammit Lupi/JRS Europe
A mother carries a baby on her shoulders after refugees arrive at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece. Credit: Darrin Zammit Lupi/JRS Europe

As the European Council meets in Brussels this week, the Jesuit Refugee Service – along with more than 30 other refugee organisations – has calls on political leaders to ensure that people arriving in Europe will be treated humanely, responsibly and that their rights will be safeguarded. They say that they are “gravely concerned that European policies are trying more and more to push people out of Europe, making it even harder to seek asylum, and leaving it to Member States of first entry, like Greece, to shoulder all the responsibility.”

The organisations that work with refugees and asylum seekers, including JRS, calls on leaders of EU countries to have the political will “to make concrete changes that will determine whether the EU manages migration with respect to human rights and prevents unnecessary suffering”, adding that they “have the political strength to ensure the future of people arriving in Europe will be managed humanely and responsibly”.

Shifting protection responsibilities

The statement goes on: “The living conditions of tens of thousands of men, women and children on the Aegean islands do not meet even the most basic standards of dignity or safety. Many sites are not fit for living in during winter with people falling ill and even dying in tents from fire and suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, families are being kept apart, and procedures are slow and unclear to people who are trying to claim asylum. Unaccompanied children are kept in detention facilities or in police cells, often in unsanitary conditions without any privacy, while awaiting space in a shelter. Sometimes they are detained together with adults increasing the risk of sexual and other abuses.”

The humanitarian agencies, which include Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE International and Amnesty International, point out that in any other part of the world, Europe would be calling on governments to improve the situation. “Instead,” they say, “European countries are shifting their protection responsibilities on to countries outside the EU, even at the cost of violating European and international law.”

The full statement is available on the JRS Europe website.