Depriving migrants of food is a policy in an EU member state — Greece

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Depriving migrants of food is a policy in an EU member state — Greece

From May 18, the EU-funded “Closed Controlled Access Centre” (CCAC) on Lesvos, which houses more than 2,000 asylum seekers, stopped providing food and water. adults residing in the camp who have either received international protection status or a definitive refusal of their asylum application.

This policy resulted in approximately 300 people being denied these basic necessities.

Undoubtedly, the Greek authorities, through this policy, instrumentalize food insecurity to deter people from seeking protection on Lesbos and to force asylum seekers already on the island to leave.

However, the authorities try to achieve these goals by flouting people’s fundamental rights and violating Greek, European and international law.

Greece’s migration ministry said European and Greek laws only consider people currently applying for international protection as eligible for material reception conditions such as food. The department’s interpretation excludes people who have already been granted international protection or whose applications have been refused.

Regardless of their status, however, under international law, the state always has an obligation to provide food to these people, especially since it is the government’s own policies that prevent them from supporting themselves. own subsistence.

The right to food is a fundamental human right recognized and codified in international law. Everyone has the right to be free from hunger and the right to access sufficient quantity and quality of food to meet their nutritional and dietary needs. States must provide an environment that allows people to produce food or buy it for themselves.

And every state, including Greece, has an obligation to ensure that these minimum needs are met and to facilitate access to food, especially when people cannot access it themselves.

The vast majority of those residing in the CCAC who have been granted international protection have no means of supporting themselves outside the camp and are therefore unable to pay for food – the failures of Greek and European policies are at blame. While beneficiaries of protection are in theory eligible for state social benefits, in practice bureaucratic hurdles make access to such aid virtually impossible.

Endemic delays in issuing residence permits, as well as travel documents and a fiscal identity card, prevent recognized refugees from accessing the labor market and social benefits.

Compounded by inflation and high unemployment, many recognized refugees have no means of supporting themselves outside of the provisions offered within the CCAC.

Also excluded from food provisions are asylum seekers whose application has been definitively rejected. Here too, the policies of the Greek government deny people legal status for arbitrary and irrational reasons.

For example, this category includes people whose asylum applications have been considered and rejected solely on grounds of admissibility due to Greece’s unfounded consideration of Turkey as a safe third country for nationals of Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Many, if not most, of these people’s experiences fit the requirements of refugee status. But a decision of inadmissibility means that their applications for international protection are rejected solely on the basis of their transit through Turkey instead of whether they suffered persecution in the first place.

Turkey, however, has not accepted any readmissions since March 2020.

Nevertheless, the absurd decision of the Greek government has placed the nationals of these five countries in a legal limbo: unable to be readmitted to Turkey and unable to access the right to seek asylum in Greece.

The CCAC announcement means that now, in addition to all these hardships, these asylum seekers may also lack access to food, further compounding their existing vulnerabilities and situation of uncertainty.

Since the announcement of the application of these policies, NGOs have tried to fill the void left by the Greek authorities. However, the limited resources of NGOs mean that they can only function as a temporary solution; they are unable to provide an amount of food consistent with human rights obligations as most can only donate a maximum of one meal per day.

Additionally, CCAC authorities have the discretion to prevent NGOs from distributing food in the camp at any time.

No one, regardless of their legal status, should be deprived of food. Food insecurity as a policy is unacceptable and should never be legitimized, especially as a European state policy.

Seeking asylum is already a deadly business, as the recent drowning of around 500 people off the southern coast of Greece demonstrated.

In this dire context, the least the authorities can do is ensure that people who survive these traumatic journeys have access to food, regardless of their status. Instead, hundreds of people on Lesvos are now being deprived of this necessary sustenance.

Since the end of June, Greece has had a new government and a new minister for migration. Hopefully, this administration will choose to change course and respect, rather than undermine, the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, we expect more from the European Union and from Greek governance than to tolerate forced hunger on their soil.


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Henry Alexander

an accomplished IT professional with a wealth of experience in the high-tech industry. As the IT Team Lead for Validation and Embedded Software at Qualcomm, he leverages his expertise to drive innovation and ensure optimal performance. With a career spanning over 40 years in Silicon Valley startups and consulting, Henry has been at the forefront of technological advancements. From software engineering to management positions, his diverse skill set has enabled him to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology. Currently, as an IT Manager and Web Administrator, Henry continues to contribute his knowledge and expertise to shape the digital future.