Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

EU leaders' praise of Turkey triggers NGO anger

  • "Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees," Tusk said after visiting a refugee camp in Gaziantep (Photo: The European Union.)

”Turkey is the best example in the entire world of how to treat refugees”, European Council president Donald Tusk claimed on Saturday (23 April), drawing criticism from human rights organisations.

He spoke at a press conference in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, where he travelled together with German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

”Nobody has the right to lecture Turkey on what you should do. I am very proud you are my partner. I am absolutely sure we will succeed. We have no other way”, Tusk said.

His statement drew applause from the conference.

During their trip, the three EU leaders visited a refugee camp in Nizip and took part in the opening of a child protection centre in Gaziantep, marking the country’s National Sovereignty and Children's Day.

They also met with the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and discussed the implementation of a recent deal on how to stop irregular migration in the Aegean sea.

Safe zones and EU payments

Following the visit, Angela Merkel said that Syrian refugees were welcome in Turkey. She lauded Ankara for issuing work permits to Syrian refugees and endorsed the Turkish idea of sheltering refugees on the Syrian side of the border, in so called safe zones.

"I have always in my talks with the prime minister [Ahmet Davutoglu] pleaded in favour of creating so-called safe zones, where we can provide assurances and security guarantees. That has to be of the upmost and immediate importance”, she told journalists.

Frans Timmermans reassured Davutoglu that the EU would honour its financial commitments to Turkey.

"By the end of July, I think we can reach a level of €1 billion of projects committed to ensure a better future for Syrians in Turkey.”

Visas

Prime minister Davutoglu said Turkey cannot be reproached on the issue of refugees.

”We have opened our arms to receive our brothers and sisters," Davutoglu said.

The Turkish PM warned Europe again that if it does not allow visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by the summer, Ankara would stop taking back migrants.

"If that were to happen then the readmission agreement will also not enter into force," Davutoglu warned. "Turkey always fulfilled its promises", he added. "Visa liberalisation was a promise to the Turkish people."

The European Commission will present its report evaluating Turkey's efforts to meet the benchmarks for visa-free travel on 4 May.

NGOs critical

The EU-Turkey meeting stirred anger among human rights watchdogs.

Amnesty International urged EU leaders not to close their eyes to human rights abuses in Turkey. The NGO said it has gathered testimonies from people, including pregnant women and children, who were sent back to Syria. Such so called refoulement is forbidden by international law.

“There is no photo-op that can obscure the deep flaws in the EU-Turkey deal. What Angela Merkel really needs to bring back from Turkey are not smiling photos but cast-iron guarantees that the Turkish authorities will stop sending refugees back to their countries of origin and start implementing its asylum laws effectively,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia in a press statement.

Marta Szczepanik from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, who recently travelled to southern Turkey, called the EU statements ”hypocritical”.

”The refugee camps at the Syrian border that I had a chance to visit are indeed well-managed and clean. But only 10 percent of 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey live in those camps. The rest of population is scattered around the country,” Szczepanik told this website.

"They go through hardship because of a very limited access to the labour market. Less than ten percent of Syrian refugees are entitled to apply for a work permit and most employers refuse to do this because they prefer to hire Syrians 'under the table’.”

Tony Bunyan, the director of British NGO Statewatch, asked why the EU isn’t the best example in the world of how to treat refugees.

Turkey widens crackdown on EU free speech

Turkey arrests a Dutch journalist and complains over plans to commemorate an Ottoman genocide in Germany and Sweden after urging legal action against European comedians.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

News in Brief

  1. Belgian PM to host 11 EU leaders ahead of summit
  2. Tusk all but rules out pan-EU candidates in 2019 elections
  3. Tusk: EU budget agreed before 2019 elections 'unrealistic'
  4. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  5. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  6. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  7. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  8. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  2. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  3. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  9. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  10. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  12. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP

Latest News

  1. UK seeks flexible transition length after Brexit
  2. Commission defence of Barroso meeting leaves 'discrepancies'
  3. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  4. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  5. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  6. We are not (yet) one people
  7. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  8. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  2. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  3. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  4. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  5. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  6. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  7. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  10. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  12. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative