One year after the closure of borders and the signing of the Joint EU-Turkish Statement

As part of the Balkan Refuge Trial project, at 20-21 of March in Athens, Greek Council of Refugees organized the Symposium “One year after the closure of borders and the signing of the Joint EU-Turkish Statement”.

Many organizations from Greece took a part at the Symposium, local and international, as Save the Children and MSF. Also, the main organizations from the Balkan Route countries, as Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Austria. Macedonia was presented by NGO Legis.The main theme of the conference was the refugee issue as it has evolved since the spring of 2015 and up to today, a year after the controversial EU -Turkey declaration.

The symposium consisted five sections. The first included a presentation of the key findings of the "Monitoring of Entry Points, Asylum and Conditions Reception and Procedures for Refugees in Greece" project, which was implemented with funding from the Open Society Foundation and aimed at the monitoring of asylum and reception procedures and conditions for refugees in Greece at entry points.

The second section focused on the EU - Turkey statement and the challenges around this. The lawyers and human rights defenders had theirs presentations at this section.

 In the third section, representatives from organizations from different countries, which were participating in the framework of the "Europe for Citizens - Democratic Engagement and Civic Participation" on a funded program called "Balkans Refugee Trail - A Pathway for European Solidarity", contributed with their own experiences. The president of NGO Legis, Jasmin Redjepi, presented the work and the challenges from the beginning of the Balkan route in Macedonia, the present situation and issues, and how it changed since 1 year ago. He concluded his speech with the importance of the networking and good communication between the NGOs, INGOs and UN Agencies in every country and between the countries, with aim of better following of the new migration flows and future emergency response if it will be needed.

The fourth section was focused at the asylum procedure mainly with regard to newcomers, especially with regards to the way the situation has developed after the closure of the borders and the signing of the statement.

 In the last section the emphasis was placed on the reception and identification procedures and the reception conditions at entry points - where the refugee population still remains trapped.

Each session was followed by open discussion and very interesting questions and answers.