Green delegation trip to the Greek border

From September 19 to 21, I was part of a delegation from my group in the European Parliament, together with MEPs Tineke Strik from the Netherlands, Saskia Bricmont from Belgium and Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield traveled from France to Greece. The aim of the trip is to get a picture of the current situation of refugees in Greece – but also the situation of the rule of law and freedom of the press in general. The Greek government has had leading opposition politicians and journalists monitored by spyware and, according to Reporters Without Borders, the country is lagging behind in terms of press freedom, currently ranked 108 out of 180 countries – Only Russia and Belarus perform worse in Europe. 

RIC Fylakio – Conditions in the camps.

The focus of our trip was a visit to the Evros, the border river to Turkey. Here again and again particularly serious human rights violations – violent and systematic pushbacks – documented. In addition, we have also addressed issues related to biometric mass surveillance of protection seekers in so-called RIC (Reception and Identification Center). We visited the RIC in Fylakio, where people are actually allowed to be locked up for a maximum of 25 days. In practice, even children are locked up there for months and have no access to education or medical care. The camp itself is small, but full of locked doors and barbed wire, with no shade or color. People live in container houses with blocks for families, men and unaccompanied minors. The NGOs on the ground are so intimidated by the government that they are afraid to talk to us MPs for fear of losing access to the camp or funds if they do.

Dead on the Evros 

We were denied access to the border region, even though we are MEPs and I am responsible for external borders in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Greek authorities are concretely preventing me from doing my work as an MEP. We were standing in front of two containers, in which lay the bodies of 20 people found on the Evros River. This year alone, the bodies of 51 people have been found in the Greek border region. We talked to Dr. Pavlidis; he takes care of these cases on a voluntary basis, trying to create certainty for the relatives whether their missing sons, daughters or parents are still alive. Often the bodies are found only after months – also because NGOs are denied access to the border region.

Meeting with Frontex

All activities of the agency are based on the self-declared needs of the national authorities and are under that supervision. The Greek authorities try to keep Frontex away from their illegal activities and pushbacks, because Frontex should actually report them – which they have demonstrably not done in many cases. The border guards and supervisors we spoke with claim to report all activities, but have never witnessed any pushback. When we asked what they actually do all day, we did not receive a comprehensible answer.

Meeting with Notis Mitarachi 

On Tuesday we had a meeting with the Greek Minister of Migration Notis Mitarachi, who has repeatedly accused us MPs and also renowned international media of spreading fake news and Turkish propaganda when we talked about the obvious pushbacks, violence and disappearances at sea. The Greek government is not only building fences on the border, but also a wall of lies. In his speech, Mitarachi spoke of much better reception conditions and a minimal backlog of asylum procedures in the country, but did not address the issues raised by credible actors allegations of pushbacks raised and other human rights violations. I have confronted Mr. Mitarachi with several recent cases, including the Cases of people stranded on an island on the river Evros. But Mr. Mitarachi simply claimed that all these cases were lies and fabrications. 

Freedom of the press in Greece 

We met journalists who were involved in the coverage of the Predator case involved where Greece illegally wiretapped journalists and opposition politicians. Their accounts painted a picture of intimidation, national media that have become the government's mouthpiece, and a severe lack of resources for investigative journalism.


After the end of the green mission, I traveled to Lesvos to see the situation in the Mavrouvoni camp, which was built after the fire in Moria and was intended as a short-term emergency solution. The situation in the camp is still not good, but it is also much better than a year ago due to the many NGOs and international pressure. How the situation was a year ago, I have written down here. Currently, a new camp is being built, which is even more remote than Mavrouvoni and should be ready next spring. It is feared that people will be locked up there and NGOs will not have access.

General situation in Greece 

On Tuesday, we met with experts in Athens who deal with the dangerous effects of biometric mass surveillance, corruption in the allocation of public funds, attacks on press freedom and the wiretapping scandal. The many discussions left the picture of a state where basic democratic standards and human rights are no longer respected. The EU, especially the Commission, must act quickly and build pressure to counter further deterioration. Civil society, independent journalists and refugees need active support to resist the attacks by the state and the government. 

Greek government lies

My visit to the Evros and Athens has shown me once again that the Greek government systematically lies in order to evade its responsibility and does not shy away from mistreating people on the run, intimidating NGOs and attacking and spying on journalists. But there is also an intact civil society that needs our support now to continue fighting for the rights of those seeking protection and for the preservation of democracy and the rule of law. 

Fire in Moria – call for emergency evacuation and relocation

169 MEPs signed the call for immideate action on Moria. This is the letter:

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson
Federal Minister for the Interior, Horst Seehofer

Brussels, 11 September 2020

Dear Vice President Schinas,
Dear Commissioner Johansson,
Dear Minister Seehofer,

The fire in the EU's biggest refugee camp Moria is a humanitarian disaster and a disaster for Europe as a whole. For far too long, Europe has ignored that the camp was heavily overcrowded and that people had to stay in Moria for years under slum-like circumstances. They had no access to proper sanitary facilities nor to appropriate accommodation. When Covid-19 broke out, not just the infected persons were put under quarantine, but the entire camp. More than 12,000 people were locked in a place where they had no possibility to protect themselves from the virus. The catastrophe was predictable. It is a shame for Europe that it was not prevented.

After Moria burnt down, more than 12,000 people are now stranded without even a tent or a roof over their heads. They urgently need our help. We, the undersigning MEPs urge you to provide immediate humanitarian and medical help, to evacuate the people as quickly as possible and to provide a sustainable solution for the people of Moria by relocating them to other Member States.

We call on you to support Greece with corona tests of all asylum seekers and locals on the island and with medical personnel and equipment for people with severe disease progression.

Many of us, including the President of our House, have already at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis called for an evacuation of the camp and the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to avoid an outbreak. We acknowledge that it is a challenge to evacuate now more than 12.000 persons at once and encourage you to look into all possibilities. People who cannot be immediately transferred to the mainland could also preliminarily be accommodated in cruise ships, which due to Covid-19 are currently out of operation, before they are relocated. In any case, we call on you to support Greece in providing emergency accommodation for the people of Moria where they can protect themselves from the virus.

We further urge you to ensure the relocation of asylum seekers from Moria to other Member States. Taking care of the people of Moria is not just the responsibility of Greece. Moria is a European refugee camp, and Europe has to stand by its responsibility. Many municipalities and regions in Europe have long declared their willingness to receive asylum seekers from Greece.

Since Wednesday night, thousands of people went on the streets to show their solidarity with the people of Moria and to call for their swift relocation. We fully support their call. We call on you to uphold our common European values and to relocate the people of Moria to places where they can find safety and dignified living condition.

Reconstructing Moria is not a solution, nor is it as a solution to create similar conditions in other camps. It will only lead to the same problems that have caused the catastrophe.

We call on you to ensure that the upcoming Pact on Migration and Asylum will be based on solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibilities among Member States. We must make sure that a humanitarian disaster like in Moria will never happen again.

We urge you to do everything possible to help the people of Moria and to show European solidarity!

Sincerely yours,

Erik MARQUARDT (Greens/EFA), initiator of the letter
Ska KELLER, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Philippe LAMBERTS, Co-President of the Greens/EFA
Iratxe GARCÍA-PEREZ, President of the S&D group
AUBRY MANON, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Martin SCHIRDEWAN, Co-President of GUE/NGL
Juan Fernando LÓPEZ AGUILAR, Chair of the LIBE Committee
Maria ARENA, Chair of the DROI Committee
Abir AL-SAHLANI (Renew)
Alexandra GEESE (Greens/EFA)
Alice KUHNKE (Greens/EFA)
Alviina ALAMETSÄ (Greens/EFA)
Andreas SCHIEDER (S&D)
Aurore LALUCQ (S&D)
Benoit BITEAU (Greens/EFA)
Bernard GUETTA (Renew)
Bernd LANGE (S&D)
Bettina VOLLATH (S&D)
Billy KELLEHER (Renew)
Brando BENIFEI (S&D)
Caroline ROOSE (Greens/EFA)
Ciaran CUFFE (Greens/EFA)
Claude GRUFFAT (Greens/EFA)
Claudia GAMON (Renew)
Cornelia ERNST (GUE/NGL)
Damian BOESELAGER (Greens/EFA)
Damien CARÈME (Greens/EFA)
Daniel FREUND (Greens/EFA)
David CORMAND (Greens/EFA)
Deirdre CLUNE (EPP)
Diana RIBA I GINER (Greens/EFA)
Dietmar KÖSTER (S&D)
Ernest URTASUN (Greens/EFA)
Evelyn REGNER (S&D)
Fabienne KELLER (Renew)
Francisco GUERREIRO (Greens/EFA)
Francois ALFONSI (Greens/EFA)
Gabriele BISCHOFF (S&D)
Grace O’SULLIVAN (Greens/EFA)
Gwendoline DELBOS-CORFIELD (Greens/EFA)
Hannah NEUMANN (Greens/EFA)
Hannes HEIDE (S&D)
Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA)
Henrike HAHN (Greens/EFA)
Hildegard BENTELE (EPP)
Irena JOVEVA (Renew)
Isabel SANTOS (S&D)
Ismail ERTUG (S&D)
Jakop DALUNDE (Greens/EFA)
Jan-Christoph OETJEN (Renew)
Jarosław DUDA (EPP)
Jordi SOLÉ (Greens/EFA)
Jutta PAULUS (Greens/EFA)
Karen MELCHIOR (Renew)
Karima Delli (Greens/EFA)
Katarina BARLEY (S&D)
Kathleen VAN BREMPT (S&D)
Kati PIRI (S&D)
Klemen GROSELJ (Renew)
Konstantinos ARVANITIS (GUE/NGL)
Lukasz KOHUT (S&D)
Margarete AUKEN (Greens/EFA)
Margarida MARQUES (S&D)
Maria NOICHL (S&D)
Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D)
Marie TOUSSAINT (Greens/EFA)
Markéta GREGOROVÁ (Greens/EFA)
Martin HÄUSLING (Greens/EFA)
Massimiliano SMERIGLIO (S&D)
Michael BLOSS (Greens/EFA)
Michèle RIVASI (Greens/EFA)
Milan BRGLEZ (S&D)
Monica Silvana GONZALEZ (S&D)
Monika VANA (Greens/EFA)
Mounir SATOURI (Greens/EFA)
Nico SEMSROTT (Greens/EFA)
Nicolae STEFANUTA (Renew)
Niklas NIENAß (Greens/EFA)
Patricia GUEGUEN (Greens/EFA)
Patrick BREYER (Greens/EFA)
Paul TANG (S&D)
Petra DE SUTTER (Greens/EFA)
Pierfrancesco MAJORINO (S&D)
Rasmus ANDRESEN (Greens/EFA)
Reinhard BÜTIKOFER (Greens/EFA)
Robert BIEDROŃ (S&D)
Romeo FRANZ (Greens/EFA)
Salima YENBOU (Greens/EFA)
Samira RAFAELA (Renew)
Sarah WIENER (Greens/EFA)
Saskia BRICMONT (Greens/EFA)
Sergey LAGODINSKY (Greens/EFA)
Sophie IN’T VELD (Renew)
Sven GIEGOLD (Greens/EFA)
Sylwia SPUREK (S&D)
Tanja FAJON (S&D)
Terry REINTKE (Greens/EFA)
Thomas WAITZ (Greens/EFA)
Tiemo WÖLKEN (S&D)
Tilly METZ (Greens/EFA)
Tineke STRIK (Greens/EFA)
Vera TAX (S&D)
Ville NIINISTÖ (Greens/EFA)
Yannick JADOT (Greens/EFA)

Question: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

In order to be able to exercise my parliamentary control function as a Member of the European Parliament, I have the opportunity to put questions to the European Commission. The Commission must answer these questions.
On 04/03/2020, I asked the Commission the following questions:

Priority question for written answer P-001313/2020 to the Commission

Subject: Situation on the border between Turkey and the EU

Since Turkey's decision to open its borders on Friday, 28 February, the situation on the border between Turkey and the EU at the border between Turkey and the EU. Officials have that a four-year-old Syrian boy has died in the waters off Lesbos. and journalists report that a Syrian refugee was shot dead by border guards. border guards was shot dead. In addition, the Greek government has announced a decision to increase deterrence at the border and to block new asylum applications for one month. The UNHCR estimates that about 1200 people arrived on the East Aegean islands on March 1 and 2. East Aegean Islands on March 1 and 2.

The suspension, albeit temporary, of the right to apply for asylum and any violation of the principle of non-refoulement are unlawful under the Geneva Convention, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on European Union.

1. what the Commission will do to ensure that the EU and its Member States take account of international asylum law and EU asylum law?

2. will it look into the alleged use of violence at the EU-Greece border, including the use of tear gas and the excessive use of physical force by border guards against asylum seekers?

3. what measures the EU will take, in coordination with international organisations, including the UNHCR and the IOM, to alleviate the pressure on Member States of first entry?


Answer given by Commissioner Ylva Johansson on behalf of the European Commission:

According to Article 4 of the Schengen Borders Code[1] Member States must, when carrying out border checks, comply with the relevant Union legislation relating to access to international protection and the principle of Non-rejection act.

The Commission takes seriously all allegations of the use of force at the EU's external borders and understands that the Greek authorities are investigating all cases. Although Member States are responsible for determining which measures are appropriate to prevent unauthorised border crossings, the use of physical force must be justified and proportionate. The Commission is assisting the Greek authorities in de-escalating tensions and restoring calm and order at the border.

On 4 March 2020, the Commission adopted an Action Plan for urgent measures in support of Greece.[2] was presented. Recent achievements of the initiative include the coordinated relocation of around 1600 unaccompanied minors from Greece to other Member States and the transfer of 1000 vulnerable migrants from hotspots to local hotels as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In addition, the new Migration and Asylum Pact will include proposals for wide-ranging solidarity with Member States of first entry. The Commission continues to work closely with international organisations in this regard, in particular the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which continue to play a crucial role in the implementation of EU assistance to migrants and refugees.

[1] Regulation (EU)2016/399 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 establishing a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code).


We can't leave anyone behind!

We now need a substantial evacuation of the camps in the Greek islands so that the refugees can protect themselves from the corona virus.

When i arrived in lesbos at the end of february, i did not think that the situation could get much worse. i wanted to spend the week off from sitting here to see how the situation on moria has developed. a camp in europe, where the processing of an application can take over a year and children cannot attend school during that time. a camp where people have been sleeping on the damp ground or in summer tents for four winters.

That people in the EU have to live like this is a disgrace for all of us. the situation here is not so bad because the EU could not organise it better. it is so bad because it is politically desired. it is politically desired that conditions should be so bad because people want to deter. but the aim cannot be that conditions in the camps on the external borders should be worse than in a civil war, just so that no one would think of fleeing to Europe.  

Erdoğans Border opening and right-wing extremists on Lesbos

Unfortunately, I was wrong in assuming that things could hardly get any worse. After Erdoğan announced the opening of the border and suddenly there were a few thousand people on the external border, Greece reacted with violence and simply suspended the basic right to asylum. I have a commissioned a legal opinion which shows that the Greek government has acted unlawfully. The Greek coast guard started shooting towards rubber dinghies full of people instead of rescuing them. Boats were left in distress for hours instead of intervening immediately. A girl drowned trying to get to Lesbos although she could have been rescued.

Right-wing extremists from all over Europe mobilized the mob to Lesbos. on some days more Nazis than refugees arrived on Lesbos. right-wing gangs took over the streets and patrolled the city with iron chains. right-wing extremists could hunt down aid organizations, fugitives and journalists for days on end without the police intervening. one aid facility was even set on fire. the Greek constitutional state simply failed completely there.

The Corona virus is a danger to the people in the Greek camps

And then it got worse again. the corona virus is spreading very fast in europe. the virus does not differentiate by skin colour, religion or gender. while contact bans and curfews are imposed everywhere in europe, here 20,000 people live crammed together in a camp that was built for 3,000 people. for every 1,300 people there is a single tap and even that one is constantly breaking down. you can hardly wash your hands here, let alone practice social distancing. when the corona virus comes to moria, it will not be stopped so quickly.

The member states have ways of preventing the Corona disaster in overcrowded refugee camps. Surely it is in our interest not to allow places in Europe where the virus can spread unhindered. The camps must be evacuated quickly not in spite of Corona but because of it.


People must now be given quarantine facilities in places where they are protected from the virus. The Commission must coordinate the process, but Member States must go ahead and support Greece in the fight against the spread of the Corona virus. This also requires financial aid, but above all it requires the political will to solve problems instead of always telling us what we cannot do.The Greek mainland needs support in this, as do the people on the Greek islands. For far too long, we have abandoned these citizens.

In order to create more attention for the topic, I have created the campaign "Leave no one behind" It is an initiative which is about citizens from all over Europe standing together in the Corona crisis and standing up for those who need our solidarity. This includes the refugees at our external borders, the homeless, the old and sick. If we do not act now, we will be complicit in the catastrophe which threatens these people.

My current assessment of the situation in Greece

Instead of talking about racist marauding gangs at the external borders, the Greek coast guard refuses to rescue people, attacks rubber dinghies and puts people's lives in danger. Anyone who shares the military rhetoric of "European shield" or an "attack on the EU" or supports the Greek demand for "maximum deterrence" agrees with the right-wing mob and racist violence. Because anyone who says: "We are under attack, violence at the borders is necessary" also says: "Strike, it's only self-defence". The European Commission, the German government and 26 other EU states capitulate to an autocrat with border guard perseverance slogans.

The inhumane policy of the last few days is a gift for Erdoğan. The last few days have shown that only a few thousand fugitives have to stand at the external borders and already fundamental rights and basic human rights are being abrogated. Greece denies people the right to apply for asylum and so far Ursula von der Leyen and most European governments seem to simply tolerate this.

The responsible politicians are overwhelmed by the situation and seriously expect Turkey to take in another million people from Idlib, while at the EU's external border children are being shot at with tear gas so that nobody can claim their right to asylum in the European Union.

There is an alternative to the current chaos and the breach of our European values. We must immediately organise humanitarian aid at the external borders. We must set contingents, evacuate people from the Greek islands in an orderly fashion and then check in various states who is in need of protection and who is not. Only through humanity and order can we find an answer worthy of Europe.

To respond to those seeking protection with violence and military rhetoric is absolutely unworthy of Europe.

For questions and further information please contact our press officer Krsto Lazarević at your disposal.