Provide safe, legal passage to refugees: MSF

London, Sep 12 (IANS) Provide safe and legal passage to refugees who are pouring into Europe, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has said in an open letter to European leaders who are grappling with the humanitarian crisis.

“The only way Europe can prevent a worsening crisis on its territory is to replace the smugglers by providing a safe, legal and free alternative. We ask you to provide safe passage,” said MSF in the open letter whose copies were sent to Switzerland, Norway, Serbia, Former Yugoslavian Republic Of Macedonia and the president of the European Commission.

It demanded that legal crossing of sea and land borders must be authorised for asylum seekers into and inside the EU.

“All forms of legal avenues allowing refugees to reach Europe must be put in place urgently. Efficient solutions to relocate asylum seekers from one EU member state to another must be found. Effective access to coherent asylum procedures and assistance should be provided at entry points, throughout Europe and along migratory routes.

“Swift registration and access to temporary protection should be provided upon arrival. Legal migration pathways must be created,” the letter issued on Friday said.

Alongwith the open letter MSF, called Doctors Without Borders in English, sent a lifejacket belonging to one of the 15,000 people rescued at sea by them since May.

“These jackets sometimes feature handwritten prayers for a safe passage, or phone numbers of relatives and friends to be contacted in case the person wearing it does not make it. This is a reminder that the people embarking on these journeys are fully aware of the risks they are undertaking, and the sheer desperation motivating them to put themselves and their families in so much danger,” it said.

The international organisation pointed out that they were treating the medical consequences of the journey, including hypothermia and dehydration, but also acute conditions requiring medical evacuation such as septic shock, pneumonia and wounds inflicted by abuse and violence.

“When your ministers gather this Monday for yet another summit on the so-called ‘migration crisis’, bear in mind that the decisions adopted in previous summits have so far largely failed to improve the situation. Some measures have made the situation worse: fences and forced fingerprinting only push people to choose more clandestine and dangerous routes.

“Lives continue to be lost at sea, in the back of lorries and in make shift camps where people live in unacceptable conditions in the heart of the European Union. It is time to put an end to these policies of deterrence,” said MSF.

It went on to say that they have turned “a foreseeable and manageable influx of people fleeing for survival into a policy-made human tragedy on Europe’s beaches, borders, train platforms and motorways. They are jeopardising the right to seek asylum. The current approach of ‘non-reception’ and closed borders is causing death, injury and chaos”.

It said that the increasing number of people seeking assistance and protection were only “a small portion of the millions who are fleeing intolerable suffering. No matter the obstacles, they will continue to come. They have no other choice. The current policies are untenable in the face of this situation,” the MSF’s open letter added.

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