• Press Release

UN Secretary-General’s visit to Lesvos must spur EU leaders to change flawed policy on refugees

Amnesty International expert available on Lesvos for interview

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s impending visit to Greece on 17-18 June to express solidarity with the thousands of refugees and migrants trapped there should mark a turning point in European leaders’ recalcitrance on the fatally flawed EU-Turkey migration deal, Amnesty International said.

His trip will include a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens and a visit to Moria, the main detention centre on Lesvos. Nearly 8,500 refugees and migrants remain stranded in calamitous living conditions there and elsewhere on Greece’s Aegean islands.

“While Ban Ki-moon’s visit will again highlight the disastrous reality of life for refugees trapped on the Greek islands, it is embarrassing that his presence is needed to show European leaders what damage they have done,” said Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Researcher on Refugees and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International, who is currently on Lesvos.

While Ban Ki-moon’s visit will again highlight the disastrous reality of life for refugees trapped on the Greek islands, it is embarrassing that his presence is needed to show European leaders what damage they have done.
Giorgos Kosmopoulos, Researcher on Refugees and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International, who is currently on Lesvos


“The blatant disregard for human rights and the dignity of those trapped since the rollout of the EU-Turkey deal nearly three months ago has been a stain on the EU’s global reputation. It beggars belief that it is now being considered as a template for the EU to shift its responsibilities to other third countries. It is high time for European leaders to stop pretending Turkey is a safe country and putting refugees from Syria and elsewhere at risk.”

Over the past few months, Ban Ki-moon and other senior UN representatives have voiced concern over the EU-Turkey agreement, which paved the way for the potential forced return of thousands of refugees from Greece to Turkey.

During a visit to Lesvos in mid-April, Pope Francis joined the UN’s condemnation of the continuing human rights violations in Greece after witnessing scenes of despair inside Moria detention centre.

Amnesty International’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher Giorgos Kosmopoulos has made several trips to Lesvos and Chios – including inside the Moria and VIAL detention centres – since the EU-Turkey deal came into effect. He will be available for interview on Lesvos around Ban Ki-moon’s visit. 


Talking points include:

  • Amnesty’s response to the European Commission’s 15 June report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal.
  • Updates on the recent cases of Syrian refugees currently facing forcible return to Turkey.
  • Poor conditions and lack of support for the thousands stuck on the Greek islands, including inadequate access to legal aid to challenge their detention.
  • Lack of support to vulnerable refugees, and women refugees living in fear of sexual violence.
  • Amnesty International’s documented evidence that Turkey is not a “safe country” for returning refugees.