“Azadi Means Freedom!”
”Azad” means Freedom! Statement on new legal draft and EU-Turkey-Deal
Yesterday, around 3000 people held a demonstration that went to the Greek parliament and later to the European Commission. The demonstrators, most of whom were refugees from Afghanistan, chanted: “Just Open the borders!” or “Azadi!”, which means freedom. Banners read “Do not let us alone” or “We don’t want to live in war anymore”. Yesterday, the parliament introduced a new legal draft. According to the government’s spokesperson, it will not recognize Turkey as a safe country, but introduce measures to host around 30.000 refugees and hire more staff. Yet the European Union wants Greece to formally declare that Turkey is safe, so to have no obstacles to deport people there.Declaring Turkey a safe third country is wrong. A country is considered safe if there is, for instance, no serious harm to be expected, if there is no prosecution due to nationality, race, or membership of a social group. Refugees who came through this country but did not stay might be sent back there.
For the benefit of the other EU-countries, but not on their behalf, Greece has to declare Turkey a safe third country. That is a crucial step to deport refugees back to Turkey, as it is planned in the new EU-Turkey-Agreement. Not only we condemn to take any step to further legalize mass deportation out of Europe, but also the very act of declaring Turkey a safe place for refugees. It is not. While a legal framework exists on which Europe is claiming that Turkey is granting sufficient protection, the practices are far from the theoretical rights and protections granted to refugees within this framework.
The past week has shown the first outcomes of this agreement on the Greek islands. On Chios, the big prison camp Vial now keeps refugees imprisoned, without access to Asylum Service and the conditions are shameful. This is not some windy measure secretly taken from the sidelines, it is a plan that the EU has agreed on to work exactly like this. For us, this is hard to believe and counteracts so much of what we have worked for. We would like to make another important note. The discussion of whether Turkey is a safe country or not, the discussion around relocation for refugees misses one essential aspect: the absence of freedom of movement. That is probably why yesterday’s demo was so loud and strong and desperate: The new law will make the closed borders part of normality, and shift the politics away from trying to „wave through“ the arrivals, but to cope with a reality imposed by Europe to both refugees and Greece. Just open the borders!“ – Refugees should, as well as anyone else, have the right to decide where they want to go and take back their lives in their own hands, considering that these people did not choose or wish to leave their countries to begin with, they should have the chance to maintain a life in dignity. This is what needs to be accomplished and this is what we stand for.