Commission must stand up for Syrian refugees on hunger strike in Athens!

MEPs are today appealing to the European Commission to support Syrian refugees currently on hunger strike in Athens in protest at the Greek government's refusal to allow them to move freely in Europe.

In a letter, initiated by the GUE/NGL group, to Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Avramopoulos, the MEPs condemn Greek authorities' decision to deny travel documents to the group of 200 refugees which includes women, children, the elderly, and the injured,

Greek GUE/NGL MEP Kostadinka Kuneva said: “Greek authorities have said that in line with Dublin rules on asylum the refugees can only make a request in Greece, the country of reception. They were told that no travel documents would be issued to them and that housing for everyone cannot be ensured. The situation shows that the current Common European Asylum system (CEAS) is simply not working. The high numbers of Syrian refugees in Greece illustrate the pressure on member states at the EU's external borders. Asylum seekers are stuck in countries that cannot provide them with anything.”

To tackle this humanitarian crisis the MEPs are specifically asking the Commission to push member state governments that receive large numbers of war refugees, like Greece, to activate and apply the provisions of a European Directive* that ensures temporary security in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons. This Directive also ensures that liability is shared among the member states on the basis of solidarity.

Greek GUE/NGL MEP Kostas Chrysogonos, said: “These Syrian refugees have been protesting in front of the Greek Parliament for 12 days, and for 7 days most of them have been on hunger strike. 17 hunger-strikers have now been hospitalised after showing serious signs of exhaustion.

“We must remember that these refugees have fled Syria, their home, which has been ripped apart by civil war over the last 3 years, costing the lives of over 100,000 people, and forcing almost 3 million people to flee the country and become refugees, in order to escape both the Assad regime and Islamic State jihadists. These people took a huge risk crossing Turkey to reach Greece on a boat and now they are simply requesting travel documents so they can move safely and with dignity to other European countries to join family members and make fresh starts. While they wait for these documents they must be provided with shelter, food, and medical care; and their fundamental rights should be protected as set out by international conventions on war refugees.”

Read the letter

* Directive 2001/55/EC