It is the Eu migration policy, stupid. That what MSF claims. In the report "Obstacle course to Europe, a policy- made humanitarian crisis at Eu borders" the medical humanitarian organization denounced the European Union’s catastrophic failure to respond to the humanitarian needs of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Europe in 2015.
Through the testimonies of MSF staff and patients, as well as medical data collected over the course of 2015, the report details the humanitarian consequences of Europe’s actions and explains how Europe’s walls forced MSF and other humanitarian organisations to radically scale up activities at the entry points of Europe. Never before has MSF had so many medical and humanitarian activities and staff in Europe, never before has MSF decided to mobilize search and rescue ships to save lives at sea.
Not only did the European Union and European governments collectively fail to address the crisis, but their focus on policies of deterrence along with their chaotic response to the humanitarian needs of those who flee actively worsened the conditions of thousands of vulnerable men, women and children.
The report describes the obstacles the EU and European governments placed in the way of more than one million people, most of them fleeing war and persecution from not providing any alternative to a deadly sea crossing, to erecting razor wire fences and continuously changing administrative and registration procedures to committing acts of violence at sea and at land borders; and providing completely inadequate reception conditions in Italy and Greece, Europe has done an atrocious job. Having conducted more than 100,000 medical and mental health consultations, MSF collected a dramatic and representative overview of the consequences of these obstacles on people’s health, both mental and physical.
“It may be a new year but we know that people will continue to risk their lives and no restrictive policy will stop them from seeking a better future for themselves and their families. We continue to call for a safe passage and urge Europe to stop playing with people’s lives and dignity,” says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF’s Humanitarian Advisor on Displacement.
According to th report, the situation at Europe’s borders in 2015 has cast a spotlight on a number of highly inconvenient facts that European governments have been trying to ignore for years:
• Closing borders does not stop people moving, it simply shifts their routes;
• Deterrence policies have direct detrimental humanitarian and medical impact;
• Increasing humanitarian aid to camps in Lebanon, turkey or Jordan, even if urgently needed does not absolve Eu member states of their responsibilities to receive, assist and protect refugees within eU territory; and it will not stop people seeking safety in europe for complex reasons.
Therefore,according to MSF, the Eu and European states are strongly urged to:
• Swiftly provide safe and legal channels for people seeking asylum, in particular allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum at external land borders, including the Evros land border between Turkey and Greece. This also includes making wider use of legal entry schemes, such as (for example) family reunification, humanitarian visas, simplified visa requirements, resettlement and relocation.
• Create legal migration pathways to decrease the demand for irregular migration and smuggling networks.
• Create an ambitious search and rescue mechanism to save lives at sea. This operation should proactively search for boats in distress as close to departure points as possible and should be accompanied by pre-identified disembarkation points where humane disembarkation procedures, including adequate reception conditions, medical care and vulnerability assessments, are in place.
• Invest in reception according to EU standards instead of deterrence measures only. Europe must move away from a fortress approach to a reception approach designed to address the needs and specific vulnerabilities of people arriving at its borders, in particular their medical and mental health needs.
• In the absence of a functioning common European asylum system, invest more ambitiously in intra-EU relocation schemes and the creation of safe passage through the EU.
• Put an end to acts of violence and abuse from state authorities and criminal groups.
Photo: Getty/VALERY HACHE