Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp near Athens protest outside the migration ministry to demand better living conditions, Athens, Greece, 15 October 2018 | EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp near Athens protest outside the migration ministry to demand better living conditions, Athens, Greece, 15 October 2018 | EPA/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

Three years after the EU-Turkey declaration, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is calling on European countries to take their share of responsibility for handling refugees. Paying off Turkey and Greece, who have been excessively hit by the crisis, cannot be the solution, the NRC said.

"Europe is neither providing sufficient support to refugees in Syria's neighbouring countries, nor giving people necessary protection within its borders," Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Europe director Edouard Rodier said in a statement published on NRC's website. Three years after the EU-Turkey agreement was signed, NRC launched an appeal calling on European countries to increase both the number of refugees they receive for resettlement from countries like Turkey, and to restart a relocation programme for asylum seekers from Greece.


The EU-Turkey statement outlined that, starting March 20, 2016, all new migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands would be returned to Turkey. In addition to European financial support to Turkey, the statement called for the resettlement in Europe directly from Turkey of up to 72,000 refugees, mainly from Syria. "The EU needs to strengthen its support to refugees in Syria's neighbouring countries, to ensure they are not pushed back into Syria out of desperation for lack of livelihood and education opportunities," said Rodier.

'Restart relocations from Greece'

"Sharing responsibility cannot only be about paying off neighbouring countries to keep people away", he added. "Turkey is now the country in the world hosting the largest number of refugees, while the rest of Europe is providing protection to a disproportionate low share of people fleeing war and persecution. European countries should increase the number of people they accept for resettlement directly, and thereby allow the most vulnerable a safe route to protection," said Rodier.

NRC said in Europe, the responsibility for the refugees that still manage to arrive from Turkey has been left with Greece. It further said that a relocation scheme that allowed asylum seekers to be relocated from Greece and Italy to other European countries formally ended in 2017 and should be revived. "The conditions for people in places like Lesbos and the long waiting time for a first asylum interview prove that Greece cannot handle this refugee influx alone," the NRC stated. "With seemingly no broader EU consensus in sight, we call on individual countries and political parties to take the first steps out of the current deadlock. Renewed relocation initiatives from Greece would be a good place to start," said Rodier.
 

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