Turkey visit: EU leaders must stop shirking responsibilities to refugees unable to find protection elsewhere

The high-level European delegation travelling to Turkey on Saturday must address the catalogue of human rights abuses faced by refugees in the country, not sweep them under the carpet, said Amnesty International today.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, will visit Gaziantep in southern Turkey.

In the weeks since the EU-Turkey migration deal was signed, Amnesty and other organisations have documented refugees being denied entry to Turkey at the Syrian border, being shot at by security forces and being forcibly returned to their country of origin.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, said:

“There is no photo-op that can obscure the deep flaws in the EU-Turkey deal. What Angela Merkel really needs to bring back from Turkey are not smiling photos but cast-iron guarantees that the Turkish authorities will stop sending refugees back to their countries of origin and start implementing their asylum laws effectively.

“EU leaders need a reality check. Turkey is not a safe country to return refugees to. European leaders must stop shirking their obligation to welcome refugees who are unable to find protection elsewhere. They must suspend the return of asylum-seekers to Turkey until the necessary conditions are obtained there. What EU countries can and should move on is the establishment of an ambitious resettlement scheme offering a safe and legal route for refugees in Turkey to reach Europe.”

Turkey illegally returning refugees to Syria

Testimony gathered by Amnesty shows that Turkish authorities have been rounding up refugees who fled the Syrian war, including pregnant women and children, and sending hundreds of them back to the country – an illegal practice under Turkish and international law.

Non-Syrian refugees have suffered similar fates. Turkey forcibly deported 30 Afghan nationals only hours after signing the EU-Turkey deal last month, despite the asylum seekers’ insistence that they would be attacked by the Taliban if returned.

In recent months, the Turkish authorities have closed their borders to all but the most seriously injured Syrian refugees. Reports of Syrian refugees being shot at, and killed, while trying to cross the border irregularly have increased in recent weeks. 

Turkish authorities preventing NGOs from monitoring treatment of refugees

UNHCR and non-governmental organisations are still being denied access by Turkish authorities to sites where refugees are being held, including those returned from Greece under the EU-Turkey migration deal. Inhibiting the access of independent agencies increases the risk of human rights abuses taking place in Turkish detention centres.

Amnesty has previously documented cases of refugees being held incommunicado in Turkey without access to any form of legal assistance or representation and preventing them from communicating with the outside world. Independent monitoring is essential to ensuring refugees deported back to Turkey from Greece or travelling from Syria have all of their human rights respected.

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