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Press Release

As Greece reaches breaking point, the International Rescue Committee urges Europe to step in

Tensions in Greece have escalated further because of Turkey’s decision to open their borders, resulting in thousands of people arriving at Greece’s land borders and the Aegean islands. 

There has been continued violence in Lesvos, Samos and Chios, with asylum seekers and aid workers being targeted by local populations who have had enough of bearing the brunt of European migration policies that have left their islands in pieces. 

Imogen Sudbery, IRC Director of Policy and Advocacy said:

“For almost five years Greece has struggled to manage the arrival of refugees on the islands; reception centres are at six times their capacity, with almost 40,000 people living in centres with space for 6,000. It is woefully unequipped to deal with the high volume of arrivals and it has never been more urgent for European leaders to step in and offer solidarity. 

“People living in conflict and crisis, in places like Syria and Afghanistan, are compelled to flee and seek safety in fear of their lives. It is shameful that people seeking safety and protection, arrive on Europe’s shores only to be threatened by the European forces to whom they are looking for safety. It is clear that vulnerable people are being used as pawns in a bigger political context, caught up in escalating relations between actors involved in the Syria conflict.

"It is not beyond the reach of a wealthy and stable region like Europe to welcome people seeking protection in a fair and dignified way. EU Member States need to step in with a solution. Instead of solely focusing on borders, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting this week must agree to immediately relocate those currently trapped on the Greek islands to safe EU countries. 

"Now more than ever, the short-sightedness of Europe’s reliance on third countries to manage migration is evident. The EU-Turkey Deal left Greece to deal with the consequences alone. People will continue to flee conflict and crisis, and continue to attempt to arrive on Europe’s shores. The only way to prevent this is by creating access to safe and legal routes to Europe and rapidly scaling up resettlement of the most vulnerable refugees- starting with a commitment to resettle 250,000 by 2025. European leaders must also look to this as a window of opportunity for the new EU Pact, which must see a new response to forced migration that puts people, rather than border security, at the heart of policies.”

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.