5 March 2020
The Dutch government must, like all other European Member States, take responsibility for the ever deepening humanitarian crisis on the Greek islands and on the Greek borders with Turkey. For this reason the Netherlands Refugee Foundation, the Dutch Council for Refugees and Defence for Children the Netherlands are calling on the Dutch municipalities to unite in a so called ‘Coalition of the Willing’. In our view, this seems to be the only way to get the government moving and ensure that we offer a safe place in the Netherlands to 500 vulnerable refugee children.
While people and children try to survive in miserable and shameful conditions in overcrowded camps, another humanitarian drama unfolds at the external borders of Turkey and Greece. The rights of the refugees are grossly violated, even with intimidation and violence. The people who, as pawns on a chessboard in the power struggle between Erdogan’s Turkey and the European Union, are allowed to pass the border with Europe, are being ‘welcomed’ with the utmost rigor by Frontex and the Greek coast guards. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other refugee conventions are now shamelessly being pushed aside. In the meantime, the habitants of the Greek islands housing the overcrowded refugee camps, have been systematically let down by Europe and for such a long time that a sense of powerless anger is beginning to dominate among them. The situation is becoming more unsafe every day and for that reason the Netherlands Refugee Foundation, the Dutch Council for Refugees and Defence for Children the Netherlands are sounding the alarm bell.
Thousands of children live alone in the refugee camps in Greece. Children are denied access to their most fundamental rights such as shelter, water, food, medical care and education. They are extremely vulnerable, they can be abused, trafficked and some of them disappear completely out of sight.
Call for action
In October 2019, the Greek Minister of Civil Protection, Michalis Chrisochoidis, has sent a letter to all other EU-governments asking them to share responsibility by voluntarily relocating 2.500 unaccompanied minors from Greece. France, Finland and Portugal have recently promised to accept children, and mayors in Germany have expressed their willingness to take over children from the islands. Our call to the Dutch municipalities is to follow this German example: show willingness to take over a part of the unaccompanied minors and make this known. In our view, this is the only way to get the government moving.