Migrants deported to Turkey: the EU hits rock bottom

Press release
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© Carmen Dupont

(Athens, Brussels, Paris) FIDH condemns the deportations carried out today under the EU-Turkey deal struck on March 18, 2016 and urges the EU to immediately stop them. Under this agreement, all irregular migrants who travel from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 are to be deported back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected following fast-track asylum procedures.

Human rights defenders on the ground in Lesvos island reported this morning that around 200 people, mostly males from Pakistan, were deported back to Turkey. Boats were reportedly filled with as many Frontex officers as migrants. Frontex officers wore hygienic masks.

"With these deportations, the European Union has hit rock bottom. How can the European Union and its member states continue to pretend their goal is to defend human rights whilst knowingly deporting individuals who have not had access to fair asylum procedures to a country that is everything but safe for them? All deportations to Turkey must stop immediately and migrants should be given access to fair and clear asylum procedures, a right protected under international and European law."

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

European leaders argue that only those who failed to claim asylum in Greece or whose claims were rejected will be deported. Given the deficiencies of the Greek asylum system, it is clear however that Greece is not in a position to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place to assess and process claims in accordance with international and European law including the Asylum Procedures Directive. The UNHCR has documented limited hours and daily caps in registration at asylum processing centres in Greece. On April 1, the most senior Greek asylum official, Maria Stavropoulou, expressed concern over her department’s cruel staff shortage and stated a 20-fold increase in personnel would be required to duly process asylum claims. FIDH has spoken to several Pakistani nationals inside the Moria ’hotspot’ in Lesvos, who stated that they have been denied the possibility to claim asylum despite their wish to do so.

With its equally faulty asylum system,Turkey cannot be considered a safe third country for those seeking international protection. The country maintains a geographical limitation to the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugee and its 1967 Protocol, preventing non-European asylum-seekers to request refugee status and have access to the rights granted under these instruments. On April 1, Amnesty International documented large-scale forced returns of Syrians from Turkey back to their country of origin, in clear violation of the ’non-refoulement’ principle.

"Europe’s so called ‘solution’ to close its borders at all costs and outsource its responsibilities to Turkey not only defies international law, but is also unsustainable and short-sighted. It does not provide any long term solutions for those ready to risk their lives to flee from war-torn countries or persecution. It will only push migrants and asylum seekers towards more dangerous routes. To prevent future loss of lives, the EU must urgently and unconditionally increase its resettlement commitments including through expanding family reunification and granting humanitarian visas."

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH Vice-President
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