Last week EU leaders signed a dodgy new deal with Turkey which focused on the continent attempting to outsource its responsibility for protecting refugees. However, despite the deal coming into force yesterday, it remains completely unclear how, if at all, it will work in practice.
Under the deal, the Greek authorities have pledged to examine the asylum claims of everyone arriving on its territory via sea, before swiftly sending them back to Turkey.
Greece has been struggling to deal with the number of refugees arriving on its shores, with nearly 150,000 people arriving so far this year in search of safety. The Greek asylum system has previously been described as ‘unacceptable’, ‘degrading’ and ‘unsanitary’ by one of Europe’s top courts.
The Refugee Council believes that will be virtually impossible for the Greek authorities to properly carefully consider each individual asylum claim.
We are also extremely concerned by plans to designate Turkey a safe country for refugees, as Turkey solely recognises refugees from Europe. That means that the millions of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and other refugees living in Turkey can’t fully access the international protection they’re entitled to.
According to human rights groups, Turkey has been forcibly returning Syrian refugees to Syria, in direct violation of international law. There are also widespread concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey.
In return, EU leaders have promised to resettle one Syrian refugee directly from Turkey for every person returned to Turkey. However, this pledge is not based on mandatory new quotas for European countries and could result in the deal being purely a containment strategy.
In response to the deal, Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “It’s utterly shameful that Europe’s collective response to one of the biggest refugee crises in generations has been to do everything it can to keep refugees out of sight and out of mind.
“Attempting to contain refugees in Turkey – a country already hosting more refugees than any other in the world – or in lawless Libya is utterly shameful.
“Europe was the birthplace of the Refugee Convention. Abysmally, it’s now in danger of being its final resting place.”