EU-Turkey deal: Open letter from refugee community leaders to European government leaders
To mark one year since the EU closed its borders, refugee community leaders – supported by the local community in Lesvos – have come together to fight for the rights of refugees and migrants. We are not pawns in the EU’s political negotiations with Turkey and today we stand united against your racism.
Our January 2017 letter to European Commission members made several recommendations that would improve enforcement of EU law and the protection of our rights, yet this letter remains unanswered. Instead, you have moved forward with your plans to detain us in Lesvos and to deport us to Turkey. But our voices will not be silenced and today we have joined this Assembly in order to organize to protect our communities.
Since 20 March 2016, the date of entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement, hundreds of thousands fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty are prevented from reaching safety, and you have called this progress. Women, children, and men have been trapped on the Greek islands for up to a year. After surviving this humiliation they are being forcefully returned to Turkey on the false premise that Turkey is a safe country, and you call this progress. Hundreds of individuals are coerced to “voluntarily” returned from Greece to Turkey and other war-torn countries after months living in horrible conditions, and you have called this progress. Your armies have bombed and invaded our countries and your corporations have exploited our people and resources for profit, and you call this progress. But closing the door on people fleeing war and persecution and treating us like criminals and expendable items to be traded and exploited can never be progress.
In the Greek government run Moria refugee camp, where UNHCR and several NGOs are also operating, we are deprived of decent health care, food and water, toilet facilities and places to sleep, but we have not lost our dignity and humanity. We will continue to mourn those who have been killed by your policies of delay and neglect, including the six who died this winter in Moria refugee camp. Attempts to divide us through discrimination will only strengthen our resolve to organize together seeking justice. We will continue to protest the deportations that are occurring without adequate access to legal aid or a fair process, and we will defend ourselves from the widespread police violence against refugees and migrants.
While Lesvos has become an unsafe place for migrants and refugees, return to Turkey is not an option. We traveled through Turkey in order to reach the safety of Europe, and in Turkey we witnessed and survived arrest and torture by the military and police, deportation to the countries from which we fled, and denial of our most basic rights. Money spent on patrolling the borders and building walls and fences will not stop us from continuing to seek safety.
We call on the European Union heads of state to immediately stop implementing the EU-Turkey Statement, by adopting the following recommendations:
- Stop all deportations and returns to Turkey under the EU Turkey deal.
- Lift travel restrictions so that all are free to move off the islands.
- Invest in improving accountability for police violence against refugees and migrants rather than in increased border control, which does not stop people from searching safety.
- Close Moria refugee camp.
We renew our invitation to European leaders to visit us in Moria refugee camp in order to learn first hand of the horrible, inhumane conditions here. The European Union’s policies will not silence us and we invite all those who stand with us to join the 18 March in Sappho Square to demonstrate against racism and the EU-Turkey deal.
Refugee Community Leaders from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Syria.
Members of the Lesvos Pro-Refugee Movement can sign up for endorsement until 24 March 2017 (Contact: syntprosflesvou@). Current signatories include: Legal Centre Lesbos, Lesvos Solidarity, Mosaik Support Center, Borderline Lesvos.
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