The United Nations and Amnesty International have raised concerns that the EU’s proposed migration deal with Turkey could be illegal. They are worried that it could leave Syrian refugees unprotected and sent back to war zones.
Under the plan, all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be returned and for each Syrian sent back, a Syrian in Turkey would be resettled in the EU.
European Union leaders have hailed the one-for-one plan as a breakthrough that would deter Syrians from making dangerous journeys across the Aegean Sea.
But the UN says any collective expulsion of foreigners is “not consistent with European law”.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, speaking at the European Parliament said:
“As a first reaction I’m deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law. An asylum seeker should only be returned to a 3rd state if the responsibility for assessing the particular asylum application in substance is assumed by the 3rd country.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, insisted that sending refugees back to Turkey was legal and in line with the Geneva convention. Citing specific paragraphs in the EU’s asylum procedure directive, he said countries could refuse to consider refugee claims if there was a safe place to send them back to. As Greece had decided Turkey was “a safe country”, he said, the returns policy was legal.
Human rights groups are not convinced. Amnesty International has said it is absurd to describe Turkey as a safe third country, and that some Syrians have been returned to Syria and been shot at while trying to cross the Turkish border.