Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh is travelling to Lesbos today to hear of the plight of Afghan refugees and emergency workers trying to help them in overcrowded asylum facilities on the Greek island.
With a significant influx of Afghan refugees expected over the coming months, MEP Walsh is calling on the EU to step up its efforts to support and protect the most vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution.
It is estimated that approximately 50% of the total number of migrants on the island of Lesbos have fled Afghanistan, according to the Greek Ministry. Given the recent withdrawal of United States troops and the Taliban takeover of the city of Kabul, there are expectations that the number of Afghan refugees arriving to Lesbos will increase significantly in the near future.
Unfortunately, the European Council was unable to come to an agreement on resettlement of Afghan refugees at an emergency meeting last week, undermining EU solidarity to support those most vulnerable.
MEP Walsh said, “It is unacceptable that vulnerable people fleeing Afghanistan are being labelled by some EU governments as ‘security threats’ and that they ‘challenge the traditional makeup of society’. It not only limits the action that can and needs to be taken at an EU level, but it also furthers the grotesque rhetoric of ‘Us and Them’ and severely impacts the fundamental rights of asylum seekers”.
MEP Walsh is visiting Lesbos at the invitation of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and while on the island, will meet with IRC representatives working in the areas of mental health, child protection and education. As a leading advocate for mental health in the Parliament, MEP Walsh will gain an insight into the mental health of those residing in the reception facilities throughout the duration of their stay and the asylum processes they must go through.
MEP Walsh said, “Now is the time for all EU countries to come together in solidarity, in order to avoid another migration crisis as we saw in 2015. The unacceptable situation in Lesbos is already well-known, with many Irish people having seen pictures and heard reports of the over-crowded and under-resourced conditions over the past number of years. The current facilities will simply not be able to cope with an influx of refugees coming into the winter months.
“I look forward to hearing directly from the women and men living in Lesbos. We need to listen to those who are living in the camps day in, day out, and represent these experiences at an EU level.
“This week is the one-year anniversary since fires tore through the Moria Camp, leaving thousands of asylum seekers displaced and crowded into limited reception facilities. The fundamental rights of the refugees who reside in places like Lesbos need to be a priority in our discussions and legislative work on migration. The EU needs to step up its efforts to ensure people can seek shelter in safe and protected reception conditions.”
As the Fine Gael representative on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee within the European Parliament, MEP Walsh consistently tables humanitarian amendments to Parliament reports and calls for the need for better reception facilities at EU borders.