EU/Turkey – The deal of shame

(Paris, Brussels). FIDH strongly denounces the shameful short-sighted deal struck by European Union leaders (EU) and Turkey during today’s European Council. The plan lays down for fast-tracked mass expulsions of all ‘new irregular migrants’ reaching the Greek islands back to Turkey as from March 20 and an infamous ‘migrant swap’. For each Syrian sent back to Turkey, the EU will resettle a Syrian refugee from Turkey. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, confirmed on Twitter the conclusion of a ’unanimous agreement’ between all EU Heads of State and Government and the Turkish Prime Minister.

‘Instead of rising to the occasion and developing a coherent, comprehensive and well-coordinated migration policy with human rights at its heart, European leaders have decided to barter migrants’ and asylum seekers’ dignity and rights for selfish short-term political gain. Such cynicism is despicable.’

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

Over the last years, FIDH and other human rights organisations have documented illegal push-backs often carried out with excessive use of force as well as refoulement to countries of origin and third countries with inadequate asylum systems and poor human rights records.

‘This deal is the end of a continuum of setbacks in the protection of migrants and asylum-seekers. Simply put, it is the deal of shame.’

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

In its conclusions, the European Council takes notes of the Commission’s Communication dated March 16, which ‘states that asylum applications from individuals crossing from Turkey into Greece can be declared inadmissible, based on the concept of ‘first country of asylum’ or ‘safe third country’, in accordance with European and international law’. FIDH strongly opposes the concept of ‘safe third country’ as the need for international protection needs to be assessed based on the individual circumstances of an asylum-seeker.

‘In a delusional attempt to seal European borders, EU leaders are ready to rubber-stamp Turkey as a safe country for refugees at a time when the country lacks a fair and effective asylum system and the human rights situation is the worst in decades.’

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

. Deportations by Turkey to dangerous countries - including Syria – in clear violation of international law and the principle of non-refoulement have been documented by human rights organisations.

Bilateral agreements cannot justify practices that violates human rights. In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruling Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy held that ‘Italy c(ould) not evade its own responsibility by relying on its obligations arising out of bilateral agreements with Libya’. The Court found that Italy violated the European Convention of Human Rights by returning Eritrean and Somalian migrants to Libya where they were at risk of ill-treatment and repatriation to their countries of origin.

The European Union and its Member States are evading their responsibilities towards refugees. If an increase of refugee resettlement is urgently needed, making it conditional to someone having risked their lives to reach Europe is unacceptable.

‘Externalising its responsibilities towards refugees to gatekeepers with an appalling human rights record will not work. Nor will building fences and over-relying on securing its external borders. Every-time a route closes, a new one opens pushing migrants to ever-more dangerous routes and leaving them more vulnerable to human rights violations. There is no long-term solution to the ongoing plight of migrants and refugees without creating safe and legal migration channels including through unconditional increased resettlement capacity.’

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President
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