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The Syrian Refugee Crisis

    April 07, 2016

    Thousands of refugees and migrants are being held arbitrarily in appalling conditions amid growing uncertainty, fear and despair over their fate under the new EU-Turkey refugee deal, Amnesty International said, after obtaining access to two highly restricted detention centres on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.

    On 5 and 6 April, an Amnesty International research team were granted access to two closed detention centres, Moria on Lesvos and VIAL on Chios. A total of around 4,200 people are currently detained at the two sites. Most arrived on the Greek islands after the EU-Turkey deal took effect on 20 March. Some of them have been detained for a fortnight or more.

    Among the 89 refugees and migrants Amnesty International’s team interviewed, there were a large number of particularly vulnerable people, including pregnant women, babies, small children and people with disabilities, trauma and serious illnesses.

    April 06, 2016

    Brussels - Proposed reforms to the European asylum system presented by the European Commission today must serve as an opportunity to achieve a fairer distribution and better conditions for refugees within Europe, said Amnesty International.

    “It would be utterly untenable if any proposed reforms were to largely maintain the status quo. Persevering with a system that has stranded 50,000 refugees in Greece in dire conditions is nothing short of madness,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This cannot be yet another missed opportunity to genuinely deal with the challenges refugees arriving in Europe face.”

    “It is completely unfair to expect frontline European countries already struggling to deal with this crisis to bear the highest burden, while others fail to pull their weight in supporting both refugees and the countries hosting them.”

    March 31, 2016
         Sherihan from Syria, resettled in Norway with her husband and son     They said: ‘We have a gift for you. You can come to Norway!’. We didn’t know anything about Norway, but we were so happy.

     

    Over one million people reached Europe last year in fragile, overcrowded boats.

    Why did such a staggering number of refugees and asylum-seekers pay smugglers thousands of dollars to risk their lives? It’s simple: Because they had no other option. With borders slammed shut, few can hope to reach another country safely and legally.

    No one should have to gamble their life on a dangerous journey to get the protection they’re entitled to. And governments could quite easily stop this happening.

    How? By offering people alternatives.

    Canada, for example, has opened its doors to 25,000 Syrian refugees since last November. Every single one reached their new home country in the only obvious way: by plane. They were able to do so because of a solution called resettlement.

     

    March 31, 2016

    Released 00:01 GMT on Friday 1 April 2016

    Large-scale forced returns of refugees from Turkey to war-ravaged Syria expose the fatal flaws in a refugee deal signed between Turkey and the European Union earlier this month, Amnesty International revealed today.

    New research carried out by the organization in Turkey’s southern border provinces suggests that Turkish authorities have been rounding up and expelling groups of around 100 Syrian men, women and children to Syria on a near-daily basis since mid-January. Over three days last week, Amnesty International researchers gathered multiple testimonies of large-scale returns from Hatay province, confirming a practice that is an open secret in the region.

    All forced returns to Syria are illegal under Turkish, EU and international law.

    “In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have wilfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    March 23, 2016

     Released 14:00 GMT  23 March 2016

    Around 30 Afghan asylum-seekers detained, denied access to asylum procedures and forcibly returned to Afghanistan despite fearing Taliban attacks Follows pattern of forcible returns and other abuses against Syrian and other nationals, documented by Amnesty International in December 2015 Returnees being held in notorious EU-funded centre in Turkey

    Turkey’s forcible return of around 30 Afghan asylum seekers just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.

    The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning the asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.

    March 22, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT   23 March 2016

    The combination of grossly inadequate support from the international community and barriers imposed by the government of Jordan are leaving Syrian refugees unable to access health care and other vital services, said Amnesty International in a new report published ahead of a major high-level meeting on responsibility sharing for Syrian refugees.

    Living on the margins: Syrian refugees struggle to access health care in Jordan features heart-rending cases of refugees in need of emergency care to treat injuries sustained during the conflict in Syria being turned away at the Jordanian border - leaving some to die as result of their wounds. It also highlights how many Syrian refugees, who live outside refugee camps, are either unable to afford medical care since the Jordanian authorities imposed new fees in November 2014, or lack the necessary documents to be eligible to access health care.

    March 18, 2016

    By Salil Shetty (Amnesty International @SalilShetty), Ken Roth (Human Rights Watch @Ken Roth), and Catherine Woollard (ECRE @ecre)

    Let’s not confuse desperation for legality when it comes to Europe’s proposed refugee deal with Turkey. No one should be under any illusion - the very principle of international protection for those fleeing war and persecution is at stake.

    Every government in Europe will have to declare its hand this week: does it uphold the right to seek asylum, or does it subordinate that right to horse trading with a country that has an inadequate record of respecting it.

    This new proposal is only the latest in a dangerous trend.  Over the past few months, various European governments have imposed discriminatory border closures and unlawful caps on asylum applications. The result is a deepening humanitarian disaster for thousands of refugees trapped in Greece, a surge in alarmist, vitriolic rhetoric stigmatizing asylum seekers and migrants.

    March 18, 2016

    European leaders’ collective ‘double-speak’ fails to hide the myriad of contradictions of the deal sealed between the EU and Turkey on how to handle the refugee crisis, said Amnesty International today.

    “The ‘double-speak’ this deal is cloaked in fails to hide the European Union’s dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis, and wilfully ignore its international obligations,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow.”

    “Guarantees to scrupulously respect international law are incompatible with the touted return to Turkey of all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands as of Sunday. Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral, whatever phantom guarantees precede this pre-declared outcome.”

     

    March 16, 2016

    Improvements to last week’s EU-Turkey migration deal do little to hide Europe’s shameful planned mass return of refugees to Turkey, said Amnesty International today after the European Commission published a Communication on how it believes the plan should be taken forward.

    “While the emphasis on access to individual asylum assessments for refugees is an improvement on last week’s woeful EU-Turkey migration deal, this must be genuinely meaningful rather than a cosmetic change,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. “It will not be if Turkey is declared by the same stroke of the pen a safe country of return, because it simply isn’t safe for anyone – including Syrian refugees."

    “In reality, the essence of the deal has not changed. These fig-leaf procedures won't hide Europe's guilty conscience if large scale returns of refugees start happening now."

    March 07, 2016

     

    “You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet. 

     

    On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family.  The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond.  Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety.  His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey.  Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.

     

    Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives.  Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.

     

    March 07, 2016

    By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe & Central Asia, Amnesty International. Follow Gauri on Twitter @gaurivangulik

    On 5 March 1946, in a small college gym in Missouri, Winston Churchill warned: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

    Seventy years after Churchill gave that speech, a new iron curtain is descending across Europe. Made of razor wire, and of failed asylum policies. It can be seen at Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in the Mediterranean and at Idomeni in northern Greece, where this week Macedonian riot police tear-gassed desperate families of refugees trying to cross from Greece.

    The old Iron Curtain kept people in, the new one keeps people out. 

    EU member states have built more than 235km of fences at the EU’s external borders: between Hungary and Serbia, Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey, and this week, Austria and Slovenia. Neighbours like Turkey have become Europe’s border guards, pushing migrants and refugees back, sometimes even shooting them. 

    March 06, 2016

    Released 00:01 GMT on Monday 7 March 2016

    European leaders’ attempts to use Turkey as their border guard to stop refugees and asylum-seekers heading to the EU is a dangerous and deliberate ploy to shirk their responsibilities to people fleeing war and persecution, warns Amnesty International ahead of the EU and Turkish leaders’ meeting today in Brussels.

    EU efforts to address the refugee crisis have focused on ensuring that refugees and asylum-seekers remain in Turkey, instead of sharing the responsibility for their protection and assistance.

    “Using Turkey as a ‘safe third country’ is absurd. Many refugees still live in terrible conditions, some have been deported back to Syria and security forces have even shot at Syrians trying to cross the border,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “Europe has an absolute duty to protect refugees and must make the bold decision to fast-track significant, unconditional resettlement as a matter of urgency.”

    February 25, 2016

    Russia is violating international law by trying to deport three Syrian refugees who were detained in Dagestan after seeking asylum in the country, Amnesty International has said.

    The three men are due to be flown to Damascus on Thursday despite the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) asking Russia not to deport them to a country at war.

    “The Russian authorities are pretending it is safe for people to go back to the country where Russia itself is a warring party and is unforgivably ignoring the country’s refugee crisis,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “The attempt to deport these three men - in violation of international human rights and refugee law - is the latest example exposing Russia’s shameful approach to people in need of international protection.”

    In 2015, not a single person from Syria was given refugee status in Russia, while temporary asylum was given to only 482 people.

    February 19, 2016

    The Turkish authorities have denied entry to injured Syrian civilians in need of immediate medical care, after fleeing the intense bombardment of the northern Aleppo countryside in the past two weeks, said Amnesty International from the Öncüpınar/Bab al-Salam border crossing.

    The organization has also documented how Turkish security forces have shot and injured civilians, including children, who out of desperation have attempted to cross the border unofficially with the help of smugglers.

    “People we spoke to painted a tragic picture of the desperate situation for the civilians who remain trapped between daily airstrikes and dire humanitarian conditions. Turkey’s highly selective practice is appalling - only severely injured people are allowed entry to seek medical treatment while everyone else fleeing the violence is left unprotected,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

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