As European and Western Balkans leaders meet in Vienna at the European Union (EU)-Western Balkans Summit on 26 and 27 August, Amnesty International is urging an immediate rethink and rewrite of Europe’s asylum policies and practices. Leaders will discuss the current refugee crisis in the western Balkans on day two of the Summit, following meetings on regional cooperation and a football match on day one. The discussions come amidst increasing arrivals at Europe’s Balkans borderlands, reports today of Hungarian police using teargas against refugees and migrants, deteriorating reception conditions in Greece (one of the EU’s frontline member states), and the ongoing sealing of Fortress Europe’s borders to those in need of international protection.
“It is true that Europe’s borderlands are facing an unprecedented arrival of refugees. But it’s also true that this is only a fraction of the numbers of refugees being hosted by developing countries as the world faces the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. The increase in arrivals also doesn’t absolve countries along the Balkans route of their legal obligations,” said Gauri Van Gulik, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia. “In the glaring absence of sufficient safe and legal routes to Europe, people are left with little choice but to embark on irregular journeys fraught with risks either in the Mediterranean or now increasingly the western Balkans. It’s time to show the red card to Europe’s response to the refugee crisis and ensure an urgent rethink.”