Europe, Globe, United Kingdom

The hostile Europe of undocumented immigrants

The new migratory agreement is among the most important European events of 2020, despite the fact that it constitutes the regional bloc’s greatest failure of the last five years and becomes a difficult challenge to solve.

 

Ernesto Hernández Lacher

 

The pact distributes responsibilities among the member states, reinforces border controls and strengthens the mechanisms for forwarding irregular migrants to their countries of origin, after a year of heightened uncertainty for millions of undocumented immigrants in the old continent.

For international analysts, the pact is far from being the solution for those seeking refuge in Europe. The new set of rules, signed in September, establishes that those countries that do not wish to receive asylum seekers will assume the responsibility of forwarding those people to their countries of origin.

In this way, the regional bloc circumvents the persistent refusal of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other states opposed to welcoming migrants, which resulted in the failure to comply with the relocation quotas decided after 2015.

The pandemic of the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, added more uncertainty about the fate of those who, after difficult journeys, are also suffering from the restrictions of border closures.

There was a significant decrease in the arrival of migrants to the old continent this year, but the living conditions in the reception camps and the spread of the pandemic aggravated the hardships of those who already reside there.

In the middle of the year, when the disease began to hit Europe more strongly, the spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Joel Millman, called for respect and dignity for these people in the face of the limitations imposed on free movement.

The spokesman for the Geneva-based IOM commented that encouraging fear of foreigners causes migrants to not go to health centres and hospitals for treatment in case of exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

This is the case with those who achieved their objective and reside in the different nations that make up the European Union (EU), a region which, according to data released by the IOM, more than 16,000 illegal immigrants entered by sea in 2020.

The most widely used method of access is the border crossing between Turkey and Greece, open since February, when the president of the Eurasian country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced the end of security controls in the border area after an escalation of clashes in the Syrian province of Idlib.

But not all the undocumented achieve their goal. In response to the mass exodus, the Government of Greece strengthened security controls, moved the military to the border and suspended procedures for granting asylum.

This is how endless days went by for those who are victims of the decisions of both governments and are criticised by various humanitarian organisations such as the UN and the EU.

Since the beginning of March, Turkey closed access to people from Iraq and was then followed by Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, as a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19, a turning point in their immigration policy. In Greece, the pandemic claimed hundreds of lives in reception centres due to overcrowded conditions, which made social distancing impossible, a situation reported by international entities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Two separate fires were added to this situation: first in the Moria camp, on the island of Lesbos; then in the Vathy shelter, a place prepared to receive 650 undocumented immigrants, but where 4,300 live.

In addition to little living space, there is sickness, lack of access to drinking water and medicines, and deficient medical attention, conditions shared with their counterparts in the country and also criticised from the EU. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Pelvin) – Photos: Pixabay

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