Bad weather and Turkey push-backs curb asylum inflows
Bad weather appears to be the main factor in the recent drop in asylum seekers coming to Europe, but reports are also emerging of Turkey sending people back to war zones.
On Wednesday (16 December), Amnesty International accused Turkish authorities of rounding up asylum seekers and refugees and busing them back to Syria and Iraq in breach of international law.
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John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s director for Europe and Central Asia, in a statement said Turkey is pressuring people against their will to return to places they fled.
“We have documented the arbitrary detention of some of the most vulnerable people on Turkish soil," he said.
Amnesty says "possibly hundreds" have been returned since the EU signed a €3 billion deal at end of November with Turkey to curb the inflow.
Turkey hosts some 2.2 million Syrian refugees.
The multi-billion euro pact is meant to improve camps in Turkey and help integration efforts into Turkish society.
Many EU states made Turkey's stepped up efforts a key condition, and EU leaders will review the latest arrival figures at their meeting on Thursday in Brussels.
The human rights watchdog says the six EU-funded, open reception centres in Turkey outlined in a draft October plan will actually be detention centres.
The European Commission, for its part, said it is looking into the Amnesty report and would follow up with Turkish authorities.
"We have taken note of it and are currently looking at the all the details,” a commission spokesperson told reporters in Brussels.
Amnesty says the detentions mark a policy shift in Turkey. It says Turkey, prior to the deal with the EU, had a more humanitarian approach.
Meanwhile, figures indicate the number of arrivals to Greece has dropped.
Frontex, the EU border agency, earlier this week attributed the fall to bad weather and a clamp down on the Greek border with Macedonia.
It noted arrivals to Greece dropped by half to around 108,000 in November compared to previous months.
The Geneva-based Organisation for Migration (IOM) has more recent figures.
It estimates around 45,000 people from Turkey arrived on Greek islands in the first two weeks of this month.
The arrivals appeared to have spiked on 7 December with around 6,000. It has since dropped to below 2,000 a day.
Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu is meeting European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday ahead of a larger two-day summit on migration in Brussels.
The meeting, organised by Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, also includes German chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Greece, and Slovenia.