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Home / Resources / News / The limits of EU policies on migration and the defence of migrants’ rights in Greece

The limits of EU policies on migration and the defence of migrants’ rights in Greece

Tomorrow, the 20th of March, we will be participating in the public debate to discuss EU migration policy and how increased border security impacts the human rights of migrants, especially in Greece, entitled “EU Migration Policy: A Push Back for Migrants’ Rights in Greece?”.

It is an event promoted by our friends and partner organisation on multiple initiatives PICUM (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that aims to promote respect for the human rights of undocumented migrants providing a direct link between the grassroots level, where undocumented migrants’ experience is most visible, and the European level, where policies relating to them are deliberated.


The event will be hosted by Nikos Chrysogelos MEP (Greens/EFA), Maria Eleni Koppa MEP (S&D), and Kriton Arsenis MEP (S&D) at the European Parliament in Brussels and is organised by PICUM in cooperation with Amnesty International, The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), The European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW), The European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN), The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and Médecins du Monde (MdM) as part of the project “Promoting EU Action to Address Criminalisation of and Violence Against Migrants in Greece”, funded by the Open Society Foundations and the the European Commission under the PROGRESS FUND. This initiative is also supported by Aitima, Greek Forum of Migrants, Asante, Greek Forum of Refugees, ARSIS, Generation 2.0 RED, and Syn-eirmos.

The debate aims to develop recommendations and push for coherent strategy to improve the working and living conditions of migrants by addressing specific inclusion needs and the case of Greece. A first panel, focusing on borders security and fundamental rights, will include speakers from the European Commission, DG Home Affairs, the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights as well as Greek organisations. A second panel, will see representatives from Médecins du Monde Greece, Human Rights Watch and the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights present recommendations for action against racist and xenophobic violence, hate crime, apprehension and detection practices. All participants are asked to propose concrete measures that Members of the European Parliament and other EU institutions can take to improve the situation and treatment of migrants in Greece.

Building on crucial work developed in recent years by key human rights institutions including the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the Council of Europe, recommendations generated during this debate will target Members of the European Parliament and will also be directed at the European Commission, other EU institutions and the European Council, responsible for developing the successor to the current Stockholm Programme in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, which ends in 2014.

fightFortressEUThe defence of migrants’ rights in Greece is especially important after the tragedy that took place on January 20th, 2014, when a boat carrying twenty-eight migrants from Afghanistan and Syria sank near the eastern Greek island of Farmakonisi in the Dodecanese area of the Aegean Sea, while under tow by a Hellenic Coast Guard’s vessel.

Many international organisations, such as ECRE and Pro Asyl, UNHCR officers in Athens and witnesses immediately reported that migrants attempting to cross the EU’s external borders with Turkey are systematically pushed back from Greek territorial waters, the Greek islands as well as from the land border and that the so-called “Farmakonisi tragedy” could be another deliberate “push-back” operation of the kind frequently indulged in by authorities to keep human cargo at bay.

Tactics such as these have indeed become common along European borders leading to the strengthening of the “Fortress Europe”. In December 2013, Amnesty International reported that European and Greek border authorities were systematically and brutally preventing people fleeing Syria trying to escape the conflict from reaching European territory, leaving them into danger at sea, assaulting them and destroying or confiscating their property.


EA is and has always been fully committed to the defence of migrants’ rights also condemning all forms of “push-back” policies and similar operations. In the past, we have already partnered on specific initiatives against push-back policies such as the “No More Push-Backs!” campaign launched by ZaLab and Amnesty International in 2012.

The final agenda of the EP public debate “EU Migration Policy: A Push Back for Migrants’ Rights in Greece?” can be found HERE.

Following the debate, participants will be invited to take part in a public action outside the Council building at 1:00 p.m. (Schuman roundabout, park Cinquantenaire side), organised by Amnesty International. This action will be a reminder of the dangerous reality faced by many along Europe’s shores.

The European Parliament will live stream the event.

You can also follow the debate on Twitter through: #MigrantsinGreece