Thursday

18th Apr 2019

Geneva convention, Turkey visa demands trouble EU states

  • Avramopoulos is convinced the deal with Turkey to stem migratory flows will work (Photo: 'The European Union')

EU states are pushing to designate Turkey as a safe country to return unwanted migrants from Europe despite Ankara's patchy application of the Geneva convention. Some countries also question allowing visa-free travel to 75 million Turks.

The safe-country move is being driven by a provisional deal between EU states and Turkey earlier this week as well as intense political pressure from Berlin.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (10 March), EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said it was the EU's "duty" to designate Turkey as a safe third country.

"It is a European position, but it has to be elaborated more in the days to come," he said.

Months of internal wrangling among EU leaders on how to best stop the flows from Turkey to Greece has led to internal border closures and a rapid rise of far-right groups.

Hopes are now hinging that the latest plan with Turkey will convince would-be asylum seekers not to seek out the help of smugglers to reach the EU.

Any Syrian that uses a smuggler to reach a Greek island will be returned to Turkey. Back in Turkey, the Syrian will be knocked to the bottom of a list of people who want to resettle to an EU state.

"I think it's a perfect system," said Theo Francken, Belgium's right-wing state secretary for migration.

No visas for Turks

Visa restrictions will also be lifted for some 75 million Turks in June in exchange once Ankara meets 72 EU commission benchmarks. It has so far met 35.

The EU executive, for its part, says it won't bend standards to meet the new visa liberalisation deadline but remains convinced the target can be met.

Strong resistance to the mov is already emerging from chancellor Angela Merkel’s CSU sister party. Grumblings are also surfacing in France with presidential contender Nicolas Sarkozy voicing objections.

"It is highly questionable that Turkey, which puts a newspaper critical of the government under its own control, presents a wish-list three days later and is rewarded by discussions about earlier visa liberalisation," said Austrian interior minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

The June date coincides with the launch of an EU readmission agreement with Turkey to include non-Turkish nationals.

The EU-Turkey readmission pact, launched in October 2014, is currently for Turkish nationals only. Although initially foreseen for 2017, this will change in June, to include third-country nationals like Syrians.

The Geneva test

Meanwhile, interior ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how to get the new Turkey plan up and running despite the legal and political hurdles.

Among the biggest issues are ensuring Turkey complies with Geneva convention rules for refugees as well as international standards on asylum.

Refugees under the convention are supposed to be guaranteed full access to jobs, education, and safety.

"The Geneva convention is the Gospel of our relations with all countries," said Avramopoulos.

But Turkey's "geographical limitation" in the convention means only European nationals can be granted full refugee status.

Rights group have also documented cases where Turkey sent people back to war zones.

Amnesty International last November said around 80 Syrians in the Turkish city of Erzurum were kicked out.

The restrictions and documented abuse have thrown a legal spanner into the EU plan.

EU officials, however, remain convinced they can work around them ahead of next week's EU summit.

Dutch interior minister Klaas Dijkhoff, speaking on behalf of the EU rotating presidency, said Turkey "already qualifies".

"A lot of these things, Turkey is already on board and they are already doing it," he said.

Relocation

Previous proposals largely hinged EU hopes on getting a stalled relocation scheme up and running.

Launched last September, the scheme was supposed to disperse 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU states over a two-year period.

But there are few takers with only just over 880 relocated to date. Avramopoulos said the new target is to relocate 6,000 a month.

"If relocation does not work, the whole system will collapse."

Opinion

EU leaders must show conscience on refugees

Aegean sea rescues, safe passage, EU relocations, quick payment of aid - EU leaders still have a chance to manage the crisis in a humane, orderly way, David Miliband writes.

Agenda

Refugees, asylum and data protection This WEEK

Another EU summit will try to agree on the plan proposed by Turkey to take refugees in exchange for more help, while the Commission will present its proposal to overhaul the asylum system.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us