What it really is? FIDH exposes the ugly truth behind cynical EU-Turkey deal

On 18 April 2015, a vessel capsized off the Libyan coast with around 850 migrants aboard, only 28 are known to have survived. If this shipwreck is the deadliest the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) has recorded in the Mediterranean, it was only one in a long series. Instead of primarily focusing on saving lives, increasing its resettlement capacity and addressing the root causes of violence leading people to flee their home country, the European Union’s (EU) response has been to enhance its external border protection at all costs and outsource its migration management to countries, which cannot provide adequate human rights safeguards.

One year on, FIDH denounces the ugly truth behind a cynical deal and exposes, using the concept of “what it really is?”, the reality of the situation of migrants and asylum seekers in Greece, Turkey and the Aegean Sea. A reality that starkly contrasts with the European Union and its member states wishful thinking and hypocritical sugar-coated discourses on the promotion and protection of human rights.

On March 18, European Union leaders and Turkey struck a shameful deal providing for fast-track procedures aimed at returning ‘all new irregular migrants’ reaching the Greek islands after March 20 whose asylum claim is deemed unfounded or inadmissible back to Turkey and an infamous ‘migrant swap’. For each Syrian sent back to Turkey, the EU will resettle a Syrian refugee from Turkey. Deportations started on April 4. 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 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.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH Vice President

The UNHCR has already cast doubt regarding the legality of the deportation of 13 people out of the 202 deported on April 4. (Read ‘What Greece really is’ by Dimitris Christopoulos). With its equally inadequate asylum system and the dramatic deterioration of the overall human rights situation, Turkey cannot be considered a safe third country for those seeking international protection.

"The Turkish authorities have used the fight against terrorism and the presence on Turkish territory of a large number of asylum-seekers and refugees as bargaining chips when negotiating the agreement with the EU. It is shameful and cynical to see that to protect their borders, EU leaders are ready to rubber-stamp Turkey as a ‘safe country’ for refugees, when reality shows that it is not.”

Yusuf Alataş, FIDH Vice-President

(Read ‘What Turkey really is’ by Yusuf Alataş).

On March 8, the President of the European Council stated that the ‘days of irregular migration to Europe [were] over’.

"This is wishful thinking at best! Obsessing over border security and militarizing the Aegean sea is not the answer. Increased surveillance of the area combined with the lack of safe and legal routes into the EU will only push people to take more dangerous routes and to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers.”

Dan Van Raemdonck, FIDH Secretary General

(Read ‘What the Aegean sea really is’ by Dan Van Raemdonck).

FIDH urges the EU and its member States not to focus on enhancing EU external border protection at all costs and shifting their responsibility for managing migration outside its borders. Instead, they should develop a comprehensive, coherent and human-rights based migration policy. Urgent measures include unconditionally increasing their reception and relocation capacity to grant asylum-seekers the protection they are entitled to under international and European law.

"In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize. The EU and its member states see themselves as strong advocates for the promotion and protection of human rights. And yet, they are dramatically failing migrants, asylum seekers and refugees today. It is high time they show political will and leadership and live up to their responsibilities and comply with their obligations. It is high time the EU becomes what it think it is.”

Karim Lahidji, FIDH President

(Read ‘What the EU really is’ by Karim Lahidji)

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