It happened as it was to be expected: Four years of standing on the sidelines have resulted in a catastrophe. 40,000 human beings, penned up in hopelessly overcrowded EU-hotspot centres like Moria on Lesvos Island, living under squalid living and hygienic conditions, will soon face the deadly disease. European countries close their borders and enforce social distancing in order to curb the spread of the pandemic. But the Greek health system, already severely weakened by austerity policies and the economic crisis, is in no condition to guarantee the medical care for refugees once the pandemic starts spreading widely. Yet still, the EU does not answer the numerous appeals to evacuate the centres and to bring those affected to safety. Internment is the EU’s answer.
These policies are entirely in line with what we have witnessed at the Greek-Turkish border in the recent two weeks. An unprecedented brutalisation of EU migration policy, coupled with the unscrupulous violation of fundamental human rights, European law and the Geneva Convention on Refugees.
People seeking protection in Europe are being shot at with tear gas, beaten up, stripped and illegally pushed back across the border. In the Aegean sea, refugees are aggressively attacked by the Greek coast guard, engines destroyed and rubber dinghies stabbed at.
Even what was unspeakable in 2015 has now become reality: Even what was still unspeakable in 2015 has now become reality: The border is being defended with live ammunition and several people have been shot at the Greek-Turkish Evros border. European border policy has thus turned from a policy of passively acquiescing to death at the external border to one of actively killing.
Right-wing extremist networks publish bounties for volunteers and employees of international organizations on the Greek islands. They are being hunted down and brutally beaten up by fascist mobs. Fascists from all over Europe arrived on the Greek islands, social centres and solidarity structures were set on fire.
In addition, the right to asylum has been suspended for all persons who have entered Greece after March 1, 2020. The Greek government announced, through its spokesperson Stelios Petsas, that it would not accept any asylum applications from newly arrived persons for one month. Newly arrived refugees are being held under ad-hoc detention conditions, such as in the port on Lesbos, while the government is intent on deporting them.
However, they are not only being denied the right to protection; according to media reports, there have even been several hundred cases where people have been sentenced to four years in prison for “illegally entering the country”.
(statement by different groups, find the full statement at: https://bordermonitoring.eu/verein/2020/03/refugees-welcome-dont-shot/)