The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) has been deeply alarmed by reports about the death of eight Palestinian refugees among other migrants after their boat capsized off Greek islands.
PRC has been receiving deeply alarming reports about what the Greek Coast Guard described in a statement as a “gigantic” operation that began last Friday, December 24, after a boat foundered off the island of Paros. Rescue teams are still searching for survivors from the two earlier wrecks, which were farther south in the Aegean, off the islands of Folegandros and Antikythera. One of the wrecks occurred late Tuesday off the island of Folegandrosalso and left at least three people dead and dozens unaccounted for.
The accident is the latest in a series of similar tragic incidents at sea that claimed the lives of at least 72 Palestinian refugees fleeing war-torn Syria since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011. Scores of others died of cold on route to EU destinations.
The list of victims includes Rawnd Alayde, a Palestinian-Syrian refugee born on November 21, 1998, and who risked her life onboard the Greek-bound “death boat” whishing to reunite with her family whom she has not seen for over six years after the German authorities turned their back on her appeals for family reunion, forcing her to seek alternative routes.
According to German and EU laws, adult children are not entitled to family reunification. But they can request family reunification and can be granted under special conditions. When Rawnd’s father applied for family reunification she was just over 18.
PRC believes that authorities could have saved Rawnd’s and other refugees’ lives had they granted them the right to humanitarian asylum and to family reunion.
The tragedy is the result of the denial of the right to family reunification by German and other EU States which continue to overlook the fact that protection of the family unit is a fundamental human right. Separation of families are of particular concern when they lead to migrant boys and girls being separated from their legal guardians or left unaccompanied. The longer-term separation of families due to migration, in particular when girls, like Rawnd, grow up in a host country without one or both parents, can also have a range of psychological, social and other adverse repercussions.
While EU States have the right to determine the conditions of entry, stay and the status of family members in their territories, EU governments should remember that the importance of family unity and its potential benefits for both migrants and their host communities should form a key part of migration policy considerations in Europe.
The EU and European Parliament should immediately embark on a fact-finding probe to determine the root causes of the Greece boat tragedy and hold those responsible for the migrant deaths to account in order to save more lives and help bring such crimes against humanity to a halt.
The EU should urgently reconsider its migration policy and family reunion red tape at embassies, migration departments, and consulates in host countries and to work on protecting the lives of migrants, among them hundreds of children, who are the victims of displacement, poverty, and economic marginalization.
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