SCI Statement on the Current Immigration Situation

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” - Paul Farmer

4th of April 2016 is named Black Monday. On Black Monday the EU – Turkey deal entered into force. According to the deal, “only’’ those who arrived after 20th of March to the Greek islands and are not eligible to apply for asylum status will be returned back to Turkey. Turkey is assumed to be the safe third country for refugees, even though there is a war, and illegal returns of refugees to Syria are being reported, including children and pregnant women.

The newest CoE report, compiled for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, stressed that “the EU-Turkey Agreement exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law.”

We are currently facing the highest and biggest humanitarian, refugee and displacement crisis on our time.

However, the solutions proposed and imposed by state actors until now prove to be inadequate or even result in violations of human rights. Drownings in the Mediterranean Sea, deaths on land routes, starvation in camps and expulsions at airports are becoming daily news as well as maltreatment by state authorities of those who seek refuge and safety.

No one puts a child in a boat if a safer option is available.

Most people are fleeing their countries because their lives are threatened. They are continuously risking their lives, especially when travelling across the sea. Thousands of them already drowned in the Mediterranean Sea on their journey to Europe. Unfortunately, the situation sees no improvement. On April 13th, 500 refugees lost their lives as their boat capsized on its way from Libya to Italy.

In Greece, refugees are being transported from the unofficial camps supported by the solidarity groups and independent volunteers to the state military camps. Those camps have started as reception centers for refugees but at the moment we can already see processes of transforming these centers into detention centers (eg. Moria in Lesbos, VIAL in Chios).

When applying for asylum in Greece, people are forced to make an appointment via Skype, raising the bar of access to legal rights. Due to the high number of applications and the lack of skilled lawyers to process the applications, the waiting time is ever increasing.


The solidarity groups and independent volunteers that had been the core actors in providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees, especially in the first months are now being criminalised, evicted and arrested (eg. eviction of No Border Kitchen in Lesbos, arrests of volunteers from Aid Delivery Mission in Idomeni). We don’t accept the criminalisation of volunteers; the people who show solidarity and provide the so needed humanitarian aid on daily and ongoing basis.

European Union

Although we have been mainly addressing the situation in the Balkan region and the Mediterranean countries, we should also concern ourselves with regard to how refugees and newcomers in general are welcomed in the countries not directly located at the borders of the EU. Extreme right wing groups are increasingly tolerated and refugees are often met with racist violence. In Calais and Dunkerque many people are stuck, desperately trying to cross the Channel. After the camp at Calais has been recently demolished, 129 unaccompanied migrant children have gone missing.

We urge our governments to act now in order to ensure access to effective protection and guarantee respect for the human rights of the asylum seekers on the borders and on the territory. The EU must open its borders and provide safe and legal routes for refugees, and cease the facilitation of smuggling practices. Instead of protecting borders, the EU must protect lives!

However, the urgency of the situation does not allow us to wait any longer for such a solution, which would be respectful towards human rights, and thus it is essential that in the meantime NGO’s and independent volunteers remain able to carry out their current life-saving work.

Service Civil International

The SCI movement exists since 1920 and its spirit of solidarity and justice has been driving different voluntary actions, campaigns and projects all around the world for 95 years now.

SCI demands equal rights for all people! SCI demands coherent respect of internationally agreed conventions which protect human rights and especially of those people whose life is endangered.

SCI commits to do everything possible within its capacities to raise awareness of this huge violation of human rights and to reduce the suffering of people who are fleeing their homelands, trying to protect their own lives and the lives of their families.

This statement has been signed by the Association of Service Civil International, the International Executive Committee of SCI and the following SCI branches, partners, working groups and teams:

PVN Albania

VCV Serbia


SCI Hellas

SCI Catalunya

SCI Italy

SAVA Working Group

Building Bridges

Refugee Crisis Team

Stichting VIA

SCI Switzerland

Volunteers Centre Zagreb

VIA Belgium


SCI Austria


SCI Germany


European Youth Forum calls on European Council for urgent action on “humanitarian crisis” and questions the EU-Turkey deal with regard to respect of human rights

Amnesty international

Greece: Refugees detained in dire conditions amid rush to implement EU-Turkey deal

Thousands trapped in Greece. Exposed to the hostile winter weather; thousands of people, including families with small children, are stuck in Greece

Turkey: Illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal

Greece: Europe must shoulder the burden for 46,000 refugees and migrants trapped in squalor

Human Rights Watch

EU/Greece: First Turkey Deportations Riddled With Abuse


Calais 'Jungle': 129 unaccompanied children missing since refugee camp demolition

Volunteers’ story:

Greece’s New Asylum Legislation: What Will Change?

Turkey 'shooting dead' Syrian refugees as they flee civil war. Allegations demonstrate a shift in Turkey's attitude towards Syrian refugees

Up to 500 may have drowned as boat carrying refugees sinks in Mediterranean

Europe starts mass deportation of migrants