An understanding of our common responsibility towards other human beings in distress is urgently needed as a rising number of migrants and refugees find themselves trapped at Turkey’s border with the European Union, said Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in a statement today.
Gísladóttir said: “Countries all over the world are taking precautions to halt the spread of the new coronavirus because of the suffering it could bring to our populations if they become infected. And yet there are tens of thousands of human beings in the no-man’s land between Turkey and the EU whose suffering is intensifying each day through the failure of political leaders to find a humane solution.
This is a difficult situation, but there are numerous potential solutions on the table that need to be explored. This is a time where true leadership means the ability to compromise, and I therefore call on all countries across the EU and OSCE to show that leadership. The right to life and to safety is an obligation, and not a favour.”
Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees have been moving west towards the border with the EU following a recent change in policy by the Turkish authorities. The Greek government announced at the beginning of March that it was suspending asylum applications for a month, in violation of international law and potentially setting a dangerous precedent for the future.
Documented incidents of violence at the border with Greece and the failure to organize rescue operations for migrants in distress at sea have greatly increased the risk of violating the right to life, the prohibition of collective expulsion, and the principle of non-refoulement, which stipulates that states must not return anyone to a country in which they are at risk of persecution.
The OSCE’s 57 participating States have reaffirmed their commitment to the right to seek asylum on many occasions (Helsinki 1992, Istanbul 1999). Countries have made further commitments to ensure the dignified treatment of anyone wanting to cross borders, in conformity with relevant national legal frameworks, international law, and relevant OSCE commitments, and to deal with all aspects of border security and management issues in line with them (Ljubljana 2005).