Ahead of the fifth anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal on migration on March 18, Amnesty International called on EU leaders to turn away from failed policies that have resulted in tens of thousands of people being forced to stay in inhumane conditions on the Greek islands and put refugees at risk by forcing them to stay in Turkey.
Amnesty’s call came just days before a meeting of EU foreign affairs and home affairs ministers, held today.
“The EU-Turkey deal has been an abject failure. The EU and its member states have failed to take responsibility for people seeking safety in Europe. They have failed to respect the rights of refugees and migrants and failed to provide alternative safe passage to Europe for people seeking protection,” said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s EU office. “Ministers must prioritize viable solutions that would save lives. Shameful policies such as the EU-Turkey deal and the EU’s reckless cooperation with Libya cannot be the blueprint for future migration deals with other countries.”
On March 18, 2016 the European Council and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe. According to the EU-Turkey statement, all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey in the Greek islands and whose applications for asylum had been declared inadmissible should be returned to Turkey. The EU pledged €3 billion in 2016-2017 and another €3 billion in 2018-2019 to Turkey as its part of the deal.
“Five years after the deal was signed, 15,000 women, men and children remain trapped in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands and tens of thousands more have endured stays there. Many are forced to sleep in tents, braving cold weather in conditions so unsafe that some people have died as a result,” Geddie said.
Following the deal, Greece introduced policies forcing people entering through the islands to stay in camps there while they await a decision on their asylum claims.
According to Amnesty, people trying to reach the Greek islands have experienced violence and dangerous pushbacks to Turkey.
Charity groups and media outlets accuse the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) of denying people their right to apply for asylum — which is illegal under EU law and refugee treaties, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
According to the AP report, some members of the European Parliament (MEPs) said Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri mishandled allegations that the agency was involved in fundamental violations of migrants’ rights. MEPs called for Leggeri’s resignation.
In its statement Amnesty also underlined that Turkey is not safe for refugees and asylum-seekers since it returns people to Syria.
Today Turkey hosts some 4 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees – more than any other country.