A statement released by the Centro Astalli, the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy, calls for the relocation of migrants in Greece and the activation of humanitarian visas for Syrian refugees.
By Linda Bordoni
In light of what is happening to migrants stranded in Greece, and following the tragic news of the escalation of violence in Syria’s Idlib province, the JRS-run Centro Astalli has issued an urgent appeal to national governments and European institutions to demand the immediate evacuation of the refugee camps in Greece, and the establishment of humanitarian visas for Syrians fleeing fighting.
Turkey’s decision this week to stop curbing the movement of tens of thousands of migrants trapped in the country, following a 2016 agreement with the EU, has resulted in thousands of displaced people massing at the frontier with Greece, where army and police patrols are using tear gas and stun grenades to block them.
In Greece, meanwhile, overcrowded detention centres host tens of thousands of migrants in inhumane conditions.
Pope Francis expressed his sorrow on Sunday for the plight of so many displaced men, women and children whom, he said, have been discarded and thrown away by war, and he asked the faithful to pray for them.
The Centro Astalli’s Donatella Parisi spoke to Vatican Radio about the JRS appeal.
Listen to the interview with Donatella Parisi
“JRS in Italy is very concerned about the situation in Greece and more in general in Syria for refugees who try to make their way into Europe,” Parisi said.
Regarding what is happening to migrants in Greece, she stated, “we are asking national governments and EU institutions to act immediately to evacuate refugee camps in Greece and to establish a sort of a humanitarian corridor for those who are ‘under the bombs’ in Syria where the situation is terrible.
“We are convinced that the European Union can do more than what they are doing,” she said.
Pope Francis’ concern
Regarding Pope Francis’ appeal for the migrants, Parisi said the Centro Astalli hopes it will have an impact on those with political responsibility.
“We hope, for example, that the agreement with Turkey is immediately interrupted,” because it is a very big problem for people trying to reach Europe, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
The EU-Turkey deal, signed in March 2016, is a statement of cooperation between European states and the Turkish government, seeking to control the crossing of refugees and migrants from Turkey to the Greek islands. The crux of the deal was that every person arriving irregularly in Greece – including asylum-seekers – would be returned to Turkey. In exchange, EU Member States would take one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian returned from the islands.
The Centro Astalli appeal calls for a “humanitarian corridor for the Syrians fleeing the bombs” that should be opened immediately, “putting an end to the wicked agreement with Turkey which has condemned millions of people to misery, despair and death.”
Parisi said the rights of refugees are in urgent need of re-establishment: for example, the rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention regarding the right of non-refoulement and the right to receive protection if the person is escaping war or persecution.
So, she said, Centro Astalli sincerely hopes that the words of the Pope will be taken into consideration by the people who have decisional powers for “the lives of these people.”