Conditions for refugees seeking asylum in Europe descended to new depths this week, as residents of a Greek refugee camp launched a hunger strike to protest inhumane living conditions, the United Nations warned Greece to stop imprisoning refugee children in police cells, and deported Syrian refugees said they were being illegally detained in Turkey and stripped of their rights.
“I’m forcing my children to eat because I don’t have any money to buy anything, but they refuse because there are bugs in it.”
—a Syrian mother deported and detained in TurkeyIndeed, Syrians recently deported to Turkey from Greece under the terms of the controversial EU/Turkey deal told the Guardian on Monday that they were “detained in a remote camp for the past three weeks with no access to lawyers,” meaning they have been unable to apply for asylum in Europe.
Such reports “undermine the legitimacy” of the deal, the Guardian notes, as the deal is predicated on Turkey being a “safe third country” to which asylum seekers may be sent under international law.
“The returnees have warned that those following in their wake face arbitrary detention, an inscrutable asylum process, and substandard living conditions,” the newspaper wrote.
“You can’t imagine how bad a situation we are in right now,” said one Syrian mother detained with her children in Turkey to the Guardian. “My children and I are suffering, the food is not edible. I’m forcing my children to eat because I don’t have any money to buy anything, but they refuse because there are bugs in it.”
“One of the hundreds of other Syrian refugees also detained at [the same detention center] said that he had been held since 10 February after being seized from his home,” the Guardian reported. “He said he was still unsure of why he was detained, or when he would be released, and doubted any inmate would be freed soon.”
Unaccompanied minors are also being detained without cause or explanation in Greece, according to the United Nations.
“The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crepeau, said he had met unaccompanied children held in police stations for more than two weeks without access to the outdoors, and ‘traumatized and distressed’ by the experience,” reported Reuters.
An “estimated 2,000 unaccompanied children who traveled alone to Europe or lost their families on the way are stranded in Greece,” according to the charity Save the Children.
Children “are put in … protective custody and the only place there is space [for them] is the cell in police stations and that’s where we find them quite often,” Crepeau said. “Spending 16 days [in a police cell] is way too long.”
Meanwhile, in the Schisto refugee camp in Greece, residents have entered the second day of a mass hunger strike.
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“No food, no water, please open the border,” reads an appeal written on a piece of cardboard.
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