Five reasons why the EU deal with Turkey is inhumane
One-in-one-out. Not a phrase you ever want to hear, but it must be especially hard to stomach when you’re fleeing your home to escape war, exploitation and persecution. The EU’s deal with Turkey sees refugees and other migrants crossing the Aegean sent back to Turkey with no consideration of their asylum claims. In exchange for each of the Syrians returned, European countries take Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey.
On 4 April 2016, the first group of refugees were deported from Greece to Turkey as part of this dangerous plan. It came just days after new evidence came to light showing that Turkey has sent hundreds of refugees back into a warzone and Turkish security forces have shot dead refugees escaping the Syria conflict.
Our new report out on 3 June, No Safe Refuge, outlines why the deal is wrought with legal and moral flaws. Here are just a few of them:
1. It is dehumanising
The trading of refugees is abhorrent and completely lacks any concern for the human beings at the centre of this crisis. Unsettlingly, this plan would make every resettlement place in Turkey dependent upon another Syrian risking their life by embarking on the deadly sea route to Greece. This would be a serious erosion of refugee rights and have international legal ramifications far beyond Europe.
2. Refugees could end up back in a war zone
Transferring refugees to a ‘safe third country’ (i.e. a country of which they are not a national and where it is said they will be safe) relies on the ability and willingness of that country to provide a safe and secure place for people to live. But this is a serious concern in regards to Turkey – a country with a less than glistening human rights record, including when it comes to refugees.
Many refugees in Turkey live in desperate conditions without adequate housing. Hundreds of thousands of refugee children cannot access formal education. And we’ve even seen refugees detained and pushed back across the Syrian border by the Turkish authorities.
In fact, Turkey is not a full signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and although it has a temporary protection scheme for Syrians, other non-European refugees have no such protection in the country. Turkey cannot be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU countries can just outsource their obligations to.
3. It will empower the people smugglers
If the plans go ahead, people fleeing conflict and persecution who have been unable to find safety in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (which are already hosting far more refugees than EU countries) will be forced to take ever more deadly routes to reach Europe. The proposals will not achieve anything beyond further empowering and enriching the people smugglers – the very issue it is said the deal is intended solve.
4. Thousands will be left out in the cold
It is unclear what will happen to the many refugees now stranded out in the cold and squalor in other parts of Europe, with no access to even the most basic facilities. This is already a humanitarian crisis that risks escalating further to a disaster if EU leaders don’t put emergency response measures in place immediately.
5. It breaks international law
The plans brush over the need to deal with each person’s asylum claim. There is a high risk of people being returned to Turkey en masse, without proper individual assessments or safeguarding. This approach would fall far short of international and European law. The reality is that not all asylum seekers are coming from Syria, yet Turkey cannot – and is not – properly supporting all those who do and does not have a fully functioning asylum system for many others.
What you can do
Everyone has the right to seek protection abroad, but getting to Europe safely and legally is impossible for most refugees. European leaders must not sit by as more people are forced into the hands of people smugglers and to undertake dangerous – and often fatal – journeys.
Ask your MP to call on the Prime Minister to urgently amend the immigration rules to help more refugees to be safely reunited with family members in the UK.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.