As tension between Turkey and European countries continues over bans on Turkish ministers waging referendum campaigns on the continent, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu threatened the European Union (EU), saying it would be shocked if Ankara were to send 15,000 refugees to it every month, Cumhuriyet reported on Thursday.
“If you want [them] so badly, there is a readmission agreement. If you want, every month we can allow 15,000 refugees who we have in Turkey [to go to the EU]. See how shocked you would be,” said Soylu during a campaign rally in Ankara for the April referendum.
Claiming also that European countries were behind the Gezi Park protests, the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption investigations, the events of Oct. 6 and 7 and the July 15 coup attempt, Soylu added that they are now directly taking action to prevent constitutional amendments being passed by the people in order to prevent Turkey from becoming stronger.
FM THREATENS EU WITH SUSPENDING REFUGEE DEAL, CANCELING READMISSION AGREEMENT
Also, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Turkey is planning to re-evaluate a refugee deal that was signed with the European Union last year and may cancel a readmission agreement that allows irregular migrants in Greece to be returned to Turkey in exchange for Syrian refugees hosted in Anatolia.
Speaking during an interview with Kanal 24 on Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu said: “We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalization issue. We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal,” Reuters reported.
Amid heightened tensions with Germany and the Netherlands over the cancellation of campaign rallies by Turkish ministers last week, the Turkish foreign minister’s remarks came just days before the anniversary of the deal, which was signed on March 18 of last year.
In a statement on Tuesday Çavuşoğlu said, “If no visa liberalization is realized, we will take the relevant steps regarding the refugee deal.”
AMNESTY: EU-TURKEY DEAL ‘A STAIN ON THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIENCE OF EUROPE’
On Friday, Amnesty International released a statement that called a migrant deal between Turkey and the EU “a stain on the collective conscience of Europe” that has resulted in the suffering of thousands of Syrian refugees and migrants.
“Today marks a dark day in the history of refugee protection: one in which Europe’s leaders attempted to buy themselves out of their international obligations, heedless of the cost in human misery,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe.
The deal was intended to return to Turkey asylum seekers caught in Greece on the assumption that Turkey was safe for them; however, thousands of migrants remain trapped on the Greek islands in what AI calls “de facto holding pens,” subject to squalid and unsafe conditions.
Greek courts have so far blocked the return of a majority of the refugees to Turkey while they determine if Turkey is in fact safe for them, despite the fact that “European leaders maintain the fiction that Turkey is a safe third country for refugees and asylum seekers,” according to AI.
Greece’s highest administrative court is expected to soon render a ruling on the safeness of Turkey for the refugees. If it determines that Turkey is indeed a safe haven for the migrants, a precedent could be set and the floodgates could be opened for further returns.
Amnesty has, however, documented that some Syrians have been forcibly returned to Turkey without any access to securing asylum and without an opportunity to appeal their return, in violation of international law. Others have “voluntarily” returned to Turkey due to the abject conditions in camps on the Greek islands.
“Instead of trying to return asylum seekers and refugees to Turkey, where they do not have effective protection, the EU should be working with the Greek authorities to urgently transfer asylum-seekers to mainland Greece for their cases to be processed. European governments should provide asylum seekers with access to relocation or other safe and legal ways to other European countries such as family reunification or humanitarian visas,” maintains AI.
The Turkey-EU deal has been praised by some European leaders as a model for agreements with other countries, despite its obvious failures and violations of international law.
But says AI’s Dalhuisen, “The fact that European leaders are heralding as a success a deal which has caused such immeasurable suffering exposes the fact that the EU-Turkey deal has nothing to do with the protection of refugees and everything to do with keeping them out of Europe,” adding that it is “a blueprint for despair for thousands of desperate people who have fled war and conflict in search of sanctuary.”
The agreement between Turkey and the EU sets out measures for reducing Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the shipping back to Turkish territory of migrants who arrive in Greece.
In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe, which in the accord was promised “at the latest” by June 2016. Turkey is also to receive up to the end of 2018 a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid for the over 2.7 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.
Turkey, however, has refused to revise its anti-terror laws, which Brussels insists are not compatible with European justice standards, thus deadlocking the visa liberalization part of the deal.
Following a vote in the European Parliament in favor of freezing membership talks with Turkey last November, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also threatened to open the border gates to Europe for millions of Syrian refugees. (SCF with turkishminute.com) March 16, 2017