Belfast Telegraph

A refugee 'deal' that shames us

By Jim Clarken

This month marks the fifth year of the Syrian conflict. Five years of war at its most brutal, humanity at its most wretched and both the UN Security Council and the European Union at their most compromised.

As EU leaders convened last week to reach a deal on the migration crisis more drownings were recorded of people fleeing across the Mediterranean, including children.

The deal with Turkey will see all people entering Greece via the Aegean Sea returned to Turkey. In exchange, the EU will resettle one Syrian refugee for each person returned.

This agreement fails to respect the spirit of international and EU law and directly contradicts the obligations of European states to act humanely and uphold the fundamental rights of people seeking protection.

Instead of treating people fleeing conflict and destitution with dignity, this agreement traded vulnerable people as bargaining chips for political concessions.

This agreement will not deter desperate people from risking their lives to seek safety and a life free from extreme poverty.

Closing off existing migration routes will only result in new routes opening and vulnerable people being further pushed into the arms of smugglers and human traffickers.

We believe that the UK, Ireland and other EU member states have an immediate opportunity to act to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the agreement.

We are urging EU leaders to immediately activate the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme, to agree to unilaterally accept more resettlement to their countries and to work to ensure that the mechanisms used in Greece to screen asylum-seekers comply with the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law.

Oxfam will continue to work with EU member states to ensure that the rights of vulnerable people on the move across Europe are respected.

Oxfam calls on the EU to adopt effective solutions for managing migration.

Because the cost of European border control cannot continue to be paid with human lives.

  • Jim Clarken is chief executive of Oxfam Ireland

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