New report highlights Europe’s failings regarding asylum seekers and refugees

(10 March) Today as the EU Council discusses migration, a new report on ‘the Refugee Crisis and the Greek Public Services,’ published by Greek public service union ADEDY, draws attention to some of the major difficulties which have arisen at the EU borders, because of Member States governments’ refusal  to share responsibility for the rights of asylum seekers.

The report assesses the contribution of local public service providers in Lesbos, covering the registration, processing of asylum claims, and access to healthcare and care facilities.

The 2016 EU-Turkey deal that seeks to return irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece, has left thousands stranded in their place of first entry, in this case Lesbos, a small island where an estimated 6,000 people are marooned. This situation has led to a massive increase in demand for healthcare and other public services, in a climate of austerity, which has significantly reduced public funding. 

According to EPSU Policy Officer Nadja Salson, ‘this new report by our Greek affiliate exposes the human cost of European governments’ lack of solidarity. Tens of thousands of people are left stranded  in Greece, facing appalling living conditions, despite the commitment of local public service workers and volunteers to find emergency solutions. Whilst the EU-Turkey deal is praised in certain quarters, the report shows it is actually failing both asylum-seekers and the local public service workforce who are now subject to harsh precarious working conditions.

‘This situation calls for substantial investments in public services to stop this humanitarian crisis escalating further. Austerity-stricken Greece cannot be left alone,’ concludes Salson. EPSU continues to call for legal safe channels for asylum seekers fleeing appalling violence and persecution. 

The report gives first hand accounts of how the new EU’s “migration and asylum governance “ involving EU agencies Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) is being experienced in real life, on the front-line, in interactions with local communities and public services providers in this Greek hotspot. 

The research records the lack of  material  resources on Lesbos (financial, infrastructure and staff shortages) as well as the absence of an effective organizational plan at central administration level, for dealing with the high numbers of refugees.

The report calls for the implementation of fast track asylum procedures along with integration policies for the stranded population of refugees and migrants, in order  to alleviate community concerns and counter the xenophobic rhetoric of right-wing and fascist groups on the island.

The report was launched on 3 March with the participation of EPSU’s International federation PSI.

For an executive summary of the report