Attacking people fleeing war calls into question the very concept of humanity

Montreal, March 10th 2020 – Since Turkey’s decision at the end of February to open its borders, which could potentially allow the 4.1 million asylum seekers and refugees living in Turkey to travel to Europe, the continent has shown itself in its worst light in managing this situation. Both the Turkish authorities, using those who are suffering to put pressure on the European Union, and the Greek ones, illegally nullifying the right of asylum, and also the EU, which is allowing the violation of international treaties that it should be guaranteeing.

  • Doctors of the World denounces the weaponization and victimization of refugees trying to reach Greece and the overcrowding situation of reception centres on the islands
  • The organization is also alarmed by the harassment of humanitarian organizations
  • In Turkish towns where people are on the move, water, food or health care cannot be reached. Children are in extreme vulnerability.



The Greek government’s decision to suspend the right to asylum is inhumane and illegal, endangers human lives, and will expose the country to international sanctions. The recently adopted Act of Legislative Resolution allows the deportation of asylum seekers without registration, either to their country of origin or to the country of entry into European territory, which contravenes the fundamental right to asylum enshrined in the Geneva Convention. “This legislation must be withdrawn immediately. We must stop sending people back to places where their lives are in danger,” says Eugenia Thanou, general director of DOTW Grecia.

The result is that people trapped at Europe’s borders have been attacked and unjustly treated. Even if they wanted to enter Greece legally, no one offers them that real possibility. Many come from the northern part of Syria that has been hardest hit by the upsurge in war, but migrants from other countries – such as Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan or Iran – are also arriving on the Mediterranean coast. For them, Turkey is extremely unsafe. Even if they have some income, the requirement to report their location every 15 days, something that can only be done in certain points often far from their homes, makes their survival unviable.

“Treating people fleeing from war in this way is not in keeping with human beings. It is not just boats that are going down, it is the very concept of humanity,” declares Thanou.



In Greece, the extremist behaviour observed by civilians, the army and the police against refugees and humanitarian organisations is very alarming. “Feeding suspicion and spreading hatred against solidarity initiatives is irresponsible and dangerous,” said the spokesperson. Doctors of the World believes that the climate of panic that has been created does not correspond to reality and seriously affects not only those who suffer harassment and persecution, but also society as a whole.

The rhetoric of the “shield” maintained by the European Commission does not help in this scenario. It would be more useful to set up urgent, fair and rational mechanisms for the resettlement in other EU countries of asylum-seekers who are in Greece.



In the meantime, it is urgent to address the humanitarian needs of both those who are arriving off the coast of Greece and those who remain in the overcrowded centres on the islands. Decongesting these facilities by relocating asylum seekers to other European countries must be a priority, especially in the case of minors. The situation is no better in areas of Turkey near the Greek border, such as Edirne, where displaced persons are sleeping rough, without any protection. In informal and precarious settlements there is no health care at all, which is urgently needed. There is also no access to safe drinking water with food. The situation here is one of extreme need, especially for children.

Médecins du Monde, whose Greek delegation signed a letter yesterday, together with 30 other organisations, addressed to the Greek and European authorities, raising these and other concerns, is maintaining active teams in all the countries involved in this reception crisis, from Syria to Greece.


MdM work

In Lesbos, Médecins du Monde is currently working to increase access to a comprehensive package of primary health care and psychosocial support services to the refugees and asylum seekers residing in Lesvos. This will be achieved through the operation of a PHC Clinic inside the Hospitality Center of the Municipality of Lesvos located in Mavrovouni/Kara Tepe (KT). The overall accommodation capacity of the site is up to 1300 persons of concern. The project aims to sustain the provision of quality services already provided by MdM-Greece inside Kara Tepe Hospitality Center as the needs of the population remain high. Priority is given to vulnerable families or families with specific needs.  During the last months, an emergency team was also deployed in Sikaminia in order to offer assistance to the new arrivals (that is before the recent developments, like the government’s decision on the border’s closure). At Evros, the organization developed a quick assessment mission on 4 Mars 2020 to check the needs of the people remaining in the no man’s land. We keep monitoring the ground situation through our Thessaloniki office and our cooperation with other organisations.


For inquiries:

Nadja Pollaert
Executive director, Doctors of the World Canada

Published on 10/03/2020

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