Migration and asylum: Mounting tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean
The Parliamentary Assembly believes that firm and urgent measures are needed to tackle the mounting pressure and tension over asylum and irregular migration into Greece, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries.
This is not the first time that the Assembly raises the alarm with regard to what is an unworkable and unfair situation in Europe. While the numbers of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Europe’s Mediterranean countries should not pose an insurmountable problem, it has now become so. The problem requires a major overhaul of strategies and responsibilities for what should be recognised as a European problem and not one confined to a single or a few European States.
The Assembly is particularly concerned about Greece, which has become the main entry point for flows of irregular migration into the European Union. It is the country that suffers most from the current economic crisis, and still lacks an efficient and functioning asylum and migration management system capable of dealing with the large number of arrivals. Human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are being violated, due to the system of automatic detention in substandard conditions, and lack of access to asylum and basic provisions. This situation affects the human dignity of these people, but also increases the risk of refoulement.
While important measures are announced to improve its asylum mechanisms and detention conditions, as highlighted in the Greek Action Plan on Asylum and Migration Management, these steps need to be implemented. Furthermore, they are far from sufficient to deal with the significant number of asylum claims in a proper way and do not tackle the over reliance on detention. The Assembly welcomes in this context indications from the Greek authorities to the Assembly President that sub-standard detention centres will be closed in the course of 2013 and that women and children will no longer be detained, as soon as open reception facilities are established. The Assembly urges the Greek authorities to ensure that these measures are applied as swiftly as possible. The Assembly intends to monitor the follow-up given to these promises by the Greek authorities.
Turkey is similarly under great pressure. It has to deal with over 150 000 refugees from the Syria crisis, a number which is mounting, and it has become the main country of transit for mixed flows of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees seeking to enter the European Union. As a country of transit, the main flow from Turkey is in the direction of Greece. The two countries are thus bound together in a problem which neither of them have the power to solve without greater solidarity and assistance from the European Union and other member States of the Council of Europe. Furthermore there needs to be greater bi-lateral co-operation between the two countries to deal with the situation they face.
In order to tackle these mixed migration flows, Greece has, with assistance from the European Union, enhanced border controls. It has also adopted a policy of systematic detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers.