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An Open Letter to European leaders as the refugee crisis continues to unfold amidst the spread of COVID-19
Dear European Leaders,
Ever since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of refugees sought safety upon European soil, you and your predecessors have collectively taken decisions such that these waves of migration have become a crisis.
The situation for asylum seekers on European soil has long since passed its breaking point . The Mediterranean remains one of the deadliest crossing points in the world for refugees and asylum seekers. Death by drowning is common in the Mediterranean sea, and at its worst it has seen 800 people lose their lives in one day alone (18th April 2019).The number of missing asylum seekers now totals in the thousands. And yet this area continues to lack the search and rescue missions to prevent needless fatalities. Mass tragedies have become the new norm.
Even for those who reach European soil alive, the situation is still dire. Suicides have grown increasingly common, with asylum seekers setting themselves on fire in Greek camps, or unaccompanied minors committing suicide even after settlement in the UK.
And still, the situation is going from bad to worse. Turkey has recently opened its borders to Europe, only for asylum seekers to be met with tear gas, and forced to strip. Dinghies carrying female, male, and minor asylum seekers from Turkey to Greece have recently been attacked. The camps have never been so crowded, with 20,000 now in Moria, a camp originally built for approximately 3000.
Now, there has been the first case of COVID-19 on the island of Lesvos. MSF doctors have warned that in these cramped conditions, infection prevention is impossible. They have reported that “in some parts of Moria camp there is just one water tap for every 1,300 people and no soap available. Families of five or six have to sleep in spaces of no more than three square metres.”
As an international body of students, the generation of the future, and organisations committed to standing up to these injustices, we refuse to live in a world that treats humans like this. We stand in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers worldwide, and demand that their rights be respected. We promise to work towards a better future. And we call upon you, as those who can enact change at an international level, to commit to doing three things:
1. Protect vulnerable refugees from COVID-19 in the same way as you would any other at-risk person in your country. Evacuate people from camps if necessary.
2. Commit to funding legal aid for refugees on European soil, and to improving legal structures and infrastructures. Without sustainable aid, robust asylum offices, and fairer procedures, we will continue to see such devastating miscarriages of justice.
3. End brutality and ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are treated with dignity. Whatever the outcome of their asylum interviews, there is no excuse for tear-gassing fellow human beings, forcing them to remove their clothes, or making them live in overcrowded and unsanitary camps.
SolidariTee National and Partners
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Looking for ways to help beyond this letter?
Mobilise your social media to raise awareness about what’s going on right now. Share this letter on your social media and with your friends. You can also follow this link, and search SOLIDARITEE-COVID, to change your profile picture to our frame with the hashtag #unitedinsolidaritee.
Write to your MP expressing your concern, and asking that they show a greater commitment to refugees both in the UK and worldwide. This website offers a free and easy way to contact your national and local politicians. Make your voice heard - consider signing this petition to ask European leaders to do more to protect refugees from COVID-19.
Buy a SolidariTee on our online shop, with proceeds going to our emergency grant to COVID-19 response.
Talk to people. Have those tricky conversations and challenge discriminatory opinions. You can find more information on this from our Mythbusters.