Amnesty criticizes EU-Turkey draft deal


(L-R) European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, President of European Parliament Martin Schulz and European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of an extraordinary summit of European Union leaders with Turkey in Brussels, Belgium, 07 March 2016.

The proposal that for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, a Syrian will be settled within the EU is wrought with moral and legal flaws, Amnesty International said.

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The EU-Turkey anticipated refugee deal would lead to more migration tragedies, according to a press release by Amnesty International.

The international organization criticized the proposed plan between the EU and Turkey which says that for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, a Syrian will be settled within the EU.

According to Amnesty, the plan doesn’t offer any incentive to the people in need to stop risking their live trying to reach the EU through Greece. The plan “make every resettlement place offered to a Syrian in the EU contingent upon another Syrian risking their life,” Amnesty said. The NGO stressed that Europe needs to offer safe and legal ways to the people in need to reach the wanted destinations.

“EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The idea of bartering refugees for refugees is not only dangerously dehumanizing, but also offers no sustainable long term solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

According to Amnesty, when questioned on the legality of this proposal under international law, the EU leaders responded that this would be possible under EU law once Turkey be designated as a ‘safe country’. However, the NGO fears that Turkey is not a safe country for the refugees especially due to the current situation and the treatment of migrants and refugees.

“Turkey has forcibly returned refugees to Syria and many refugees in the country live in desperate conditions without adequate housing. Hundreds of thousands of refugee children cannot access formal education. By no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cozily outsource its obligations to,” the Amnesty official added.

Amnesty also criticized the statement of Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council, who said that the Western Balkans route would be closed. Closure of this route would lead to thousands of vulnerable people being left in the cold with no clear plan on how their urgent humanitarian needs and rights to international protection would be dealt with, Amnesty said.

UNHCR Proposal

Before the EU Turkey refugee Summit, UN’s refugee agency UNHCR also sent a detailed plan to the EU leaders on how to solve the European refugee crisis.

On 4 March UNHCR chief, Filipo Grandi warned the EU policy makers that they are running out of time to solve the current refugee situation.

Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, called for strong leadership and vision to address what he said was “as much a crisis of European solidarity as it is a refugee crisis.”

“The collective failure to implement the measures agreed by EU Member States in the past has led to the current escalation in the crisis,” Grandi added.

The UNHCR noted that the situation is quickly deteriorating with some 35,000 people now in Greece, of whom nearly 20,000 are in the Idomeni region with around 11,000 on or near the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“Although the Greek authorities and military have ramped up their response, thousands are sleeping in the open without adequate reception, services, aid or information. With tensions mounting, the situation could escalate quickly into a full-blown crisis,” the UN stressed in press release.

Grandi’s plan to EU Member States to manage and stabilize the refugee situation calls for:

1) The full Implementation of the so-called “hot spot” approach and relocation of asylum seekers out of Greece and Italy and, at the same time, to return individuals who do not qualify for refugee protection, including under existing readmission agreements.

2) Step up support to Greece to handle the humanitarian emergency, including for refugee status determination, relocation, and return or readmission.

3) Ensure compliance with all the EU laws and directives on asylum among Member States.

4) Make available more safe, legal ways for refugees to travel to Europe under managed programmes –for example humanitarian admission programmes, private sponsorships, family reunion, student scholarships and labour mobility schemes – so that refugees do not resort to smugglers and traffickers to find safety.

5) Safe-guard individuals at risk, including systems to protect unaccompanied and separated children, measures to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, enhancing search and rescue operations at sea, saving lives by cracking down on smuggling, and countering xenophobia and racism targeted at refugees and migrants.

6) Develop Europe-wide systems of responsibility for asylum-seekers, including the creation of registration centres in main countries of arrival, and setting up a system for asylum requests to be distributed in an equitable way across EU Member States.

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