Eight EU Countries Call For Reassessment Of Syria Refugee Policy

Officials from eight European Union member states issued a joint statement Friday calling for a re-evaluation of the situation in Syria to allow for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.

The countries — Austria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland — said a reassessment could lead to “more effective ways of handling” Syrian refugees seeking to enter the EU.

The statement came after a summit meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus, where the officials said conditions in Syria have “considerably evolved” despite a lack of complete political stability. Cyprus has seen a surge in Syrian refugees arriving from Lebanon in recent months.

Earlier this month, the EU announced a €1 billion aid package for Lebanon to boost border controls and halt the flow of asylum seekers and migrants to Cyprus and Italy. The eight countries said the EU should further support Lebanon to “mitigate the risk of even greater flows from Lebanon to the EU.”

The statement emphasized that decisions on who can cross a member state’s borders should be made by the government not by criminal smuggling networks. It follows a call from 15 EU countries to boost partnerships along migratory routes to address the issue at its source.

While pledging to support Syrian refugees in line with international law the countries hoped their talks could spark a wider EU debate on the process of granting international protection to migrants. Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis said European citizens want “solutions practical realistic solutions that can be implemented.”