The European Union must help Greece manage its border with Turkey and ensure the right to asylum for those who need it, several members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said on Tuesday.
The EP’s plenary session dedicated to the situation at the Greek-Turkish border was shortened to one day and took place in Brussels instead of Strasbourg because of concerns linked to the spread of coronavirus.
In an earlier statement explaing the special session, the Europarliament said that “since the beginning of March, thousands of people have been trying to cross the Greek-Turkish border by land and sea, following [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s announcement that his country will no longer prevent them from doing so, as it did in 2016 in exchange for EU financial assistance,” referring to the EU-Turkey joint statement of 2016.
MEPs examined the repercussions of Turkey’s stance on its relations with the EU, the actions of the Greek police towards refugees and migrants, as well as the Greek government’s decision to stop accepting asylum applications for a month.
In a debate with Home Affairs Ylva Commissioner Johansson and the Croatian Presidency of the Council, a majority of speakers criticised Erdogan for using people’s suffering for political purposes,” a Europarliament statement said. “Many also underlined that the 2015 refugee crisis should not be repeated and insisted that the EU needs to update its common rules on asylum,” it further pointed out.
According to the debate, some political group leaders called for a revision of the deal with Turkey, while others showed deep concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation both at the border with Turkey and on the Greek islands, where thousands of asylum-seekers, many of them unaccompanied minors, are stranded.
The need to respect the Geneva Convention and offer protection to refugees, the allegations about police violence against people attempting to cross the border and the risk that jihadists could be entering EU territory were also raised during the discussion.