The Aegean Tragedy – Key facts and key steps

The Aegean Tragedy
24 January 2020

The full version of this paper is available in PDF format.

Priorities this winter:

  • end the humanitarian emergency on the islands
  • avoid a new humanitarian emergency on the mainland
  • reduce the number of people crossing the Balkan route
  • ensure that there are no push backs at any border in South East Europe 

For this:

  • reduce the number of people crossing to the Aegean islands, and increase the probability of return to Turkey of those who arrive (currently it is below 1 percent),
  • move those now on the islands to the mainland,
  • create humane reception conditions on the islands.
  • A coalition of EU asylum agencies to cooperate with the Greek Asylum Service to ensure that new claims on the islands are dealt with within weeks.
  • Once arrivals are reduced again, restart relocation from Greek mainland to other EU member states, also to reduce pressure on the Balkan route.
  • EU to reach understanding with Turkey on Phase II of the EU-Turkey Statement – guarantee another 6 billion Euros for the growing number of Syrian refugees in Turkey in the coming years. Discuss extending the EU-Turkey agreement to the land border.

To achieve these goals, learn from what has worked and what failed since 2016. This WAS achieved already in spring 2016:

  • In the first 3 months of 2016, before the EU-Turkey Statement, ~ 150,000 people arrived on the islands.
  • In the 3 months after the statement it was fewer than 7,000.
  • In the first 3 months of 2017 it was 4,000. Numbers started to rise again from the middle of 2017.
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