A moral and legal obligation

A moral and legal obligation

Aid workers describe the condition in Greek refugee camps – for example in Idomeni – as devastating. This must change, warns the aid organization Oxfam on our site interview and calls on the EU to act.

Interviewer: How dramatic is the situation in the Greek refugee camps??

Robert Lindner (humanitarian crisis officer at Oxfam): That is very different. In Idomeni, which is currently most in the public eye, very problematic conditions certainly prevail. We are not there ourselves, but we also have partners who work there. There, it is practically impossible to provide humanitarian aid – real emergency aid – as would be necessary in such crisis situations. It is difficult to work there the way we work in countries like Lebanon or Jordan, for example, or in Syria itself, because there has been virtually no preparation in Greece for such a situation. In Idomeni, for example, the camp simply consists of a collection of tents. On Lesbos it looks a little different. There are already firmer structures there, but these are also transit camps. That means that the arriving refugees should not stay there any longer and that is usually the case. There, a quick registration takes place and then most migrants and refugees are sent on to mainland Greece. There are very, very many question marks about how things will go on there then.
Interviewer: Closing the Balkan route is politically desired. What moral obligations would Europe have in your eyes to solve this problem differently??

Lindner: Europe certainly has a moral obligation to be more active there – as a Nobel Peace Prize winner and defender of human rights. But they are also legal obligations. These are clearly regulated by the Geneva Refugee Convention, but also by the European treaties. It is necessary and indispensable that refugees – that is, people seeking protection in Europe – are given the opportunity to apply for asylum there and then receive due process that really meets rule-of-law standards.

Interviewer: Before the Balkan route was closed, refugees were able to get through to Central Europe. But it also came with great hardship. What suggestion would you have for the leaders of the EU countries, who are, after all, meeting in Brussels right now, on how to better channel the influx of refugees?

Lindner: It is certainly not our task now to show these ways in detail. But of course there has to be a settlement, there has to be orderly conditions. It cannot be a matter of prioritizing compartmentalization and repatriation. As it is clearly going to happen in the proposals being dealt with in Brussels. It must be ensured that in Greece – on European soil – but also in Turkey, the standards set by the international agreements are respected. That there are no repatriations, especially to countries where refugees are not adequately protected.

The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.

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