By Ben Kopp
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
BRUSSELS, European Union – The United Nations called for European countries to cease refusal of entry to asylum-seekers.
Since March 2011, nearly 2.2 million people have fled Syria.
On 3 November 2013, Bulgarian skinheads warned the government in Sofia to clear the streets of “illegal immigrants”, or they would do it themselves. The next day, two Bulgarian men stabbed and killed a Syrian boy near a school where 8000 refugees are housed.
On 15 November 2013, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency expressed concern that European Union (EU) countries have allegedly denied or forcibly returned Syrian and other asylum-seekers.
In Bulgaria and Greece, reports indicate that authorities have deployed to the border regions hundreds of police, who turned away migrants attempting to enter the countries. While Bulgaria allowed approximately 85 people per day into the country during the summer, that number is now 10-15 per day.
The UNHCR asked Greek authorities to investigate the fates of 150 Syrian refugees, following a 12 November 2013 incident in which Evros villagers reported that the refugees were detained and transported by police to an unknown location.
“Introducing barriers, like fences or other deterrents, might lead people to undertake more dangerous crossings and further place refugees at the mercy of smugglers,” said the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards.
“UNHCR is calling for a global moratorium on any return of Syrians to neighbouring countries. This would represent a concrete gesture of solidarity with these countries that currently host over 2.2 million Syrian refugees.”
Edwards called for genuine burden-sharing outside existing EU mechanisms, stating that returning Syrian refugees only increases the challenges faced by countries who accept them, and that EU countries with external borders should not be the only countries accepting refugees in the EU.
UNHCR commended some EU countries that did not to return all asylum-seekers to their first point of entry in the EU. To encourage solidarity with EU border countries, UNHCR appealed to others to follow suit.
“Two weeks ago the EU allocated €85m for Syrian refugees bringing the total humanitarian support so far to €400m,” said EU Ambassador-designate to Israel Lars Faaborg. “About half of this sum will be spent inside Syria to help civil society groups provide basic services while the other half will be used to help Jordan cope with the 500,000 Syrian refugees on its territory.”
Faaborg recently visited the Ziv Medical Centre in Israel, where he witnessed “the wonderful treatment the hospital is providing injured Syrians.”
“The commitment to the welfare of other human beings, regardless of the fact that they belong to an enemy nation, should be a source of pride to all Israelis,” Faaborg said.
That commitment should also be a source of pride for all people of all countries worldwide, and the first step is accepting those who seek asylum.
For further information, please see:
TIME – Syrian Refugees Find Discomfort and Unrest in Bulgaria – November 16, 2013
AFP – UN Warns over Refugees Turned Away in Greece, Bulgaria – November 15, 2013
European Jewish Press – EU Ambassador Lauds Israel for the Medical Treatment of Wounded Syrians – November 15, 2013
UN News Centre – UN Concerned That European Union Countries May Be Denying Entry to Syrians, Other Asylum-Seekers – November 15, 2013