Having recently returned from visiting the Greek island of Lesbos, first point of arrival in Europe for many refugees crossing the sea from Turkey, Professor Cathryn Costello has written an op-ed for The Irish Times about what she found, published yesterday. She met mainly Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, forced to walk 70km across the island to the only reception centre due to ‘insane’ laws preventing the refugees from taking paid transport. As Professor Costello says, “Assistance to those who arrive irregularly is often criminalised. Greek law, like that of many other countries (often prompted by international and EU law against smuggling), prohibits affording them assistance for payment.” She writes further that “The lack of transport across the island is due to just one of the many legal barriers refugees encounter when seeking protection in the EU. The EU and its member states have enacted laws that prevent them from travelling legally to seek protection. Visas are required, and virtually impossible for refugees to obtain.”
The piece continues by addressing the consequence of the lack of safe and legal access to protection, and the EU response to the current refugee numbers.