Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Turkey vows better protection of non-Syrian migrants

  • "We believe that now there should be no problem on the EU/Greek side to send back everybody," Tukish EU ambassador said (Photo: European Parliament)

Turkey has pledged to pass laws to boost the asylum rights of non-Syrians sent back from Greece.

The Financial Times reports that Turkey sent a letter to the European Commission on Tuesday (26 April) outlining its legislative proposals to give non-Syrians the right to have their asylum applications heard.

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"We believe that now there should be no problem on the EU/Greek side to send back everybody. We have helped the EU legally and with their conscience," Turkey's ambassador to the EU, Selim Yenel, told the newspaper.

The move may plug a big legal hole in the EU's controversial migrant swap deal with Turkey, which requires Ankara to give equal treatment to would-be asylum seekers returned from Greece.

Only European nationals are extended the full refugee protection rights under the Refugee Convention in Turkey. Syrians are given a special temporary protection status, and everyone else is left to their own devices.

The patchy application of asylum rights in Turkey undermined the legal basis of the migrant swap deal, with EU officials insisting Ankara extend an "equivalent" protection status of the Refugee Convention to everyone.

That "equivalent" is spelled out in an article in the EU's asylum procedures directive, which says an EU state can send back a rejected migrant if Turkey is designated as a "safe third country".

Without an "equivalent" in place, the agreement between the two could have ended up in court.

The human rights body, Council of Europe, said last week in a report that the EU-Turkey deal "at best strains and at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law".

The deal is designed to thwart efforts by people to use smugglers to reach Greece from Turkey but has sparked protests from human rights activists and aid organisations.

If Turkey fulfils the requirements, the EU has promised to lift visa requirements for Turkish nationals on short trips in the passport-free Schengen zone by June.

The EU will also provide up to €6 billion to help Syrian refugees in Turkey. EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans over the weekend said €1 billion would be earmarked by July for new projects.

Turkey is grappling with some 2.7 million refugees inside its borders amid renewed fighting in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in Syria that has displaced thousands.

Last week, rockets fired by Islamic State militants from inside Syria hit Kilis, a Turkish border town. Roughly a dozen people have been killed in the city since January.

Some estimate more than one million Syrians are now living along the Turkish border.

Around 270,000 Syrians live in Turkish-run government camps, where they have access to healthcare. Others are spread throughout the country with a large number registered in Istanbul.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International accused Turkey of forcing Syrians back into the war-torn country on a daily basis.

EU casts legal spell on Turkey pact

Turkey will only have to demonstrate "equivalent" level of safeguards to the Refugee Convention in order for Greece to send people back.

EU defends Turkey deal in light of Greek court ruling

The EU Commission on Monday fended off suggestions a decision by a Greek apeals court not to send back a Syrian aslyum seeker to Turkey, because it is not safe, doesn not endanger the EU-Turkey deal.

EU warns Hungary over Afghan refugees

Budapest tried and failed last week to deport three families to Afghanistan, and is accused of denying food to others stuck in its transit zone. The European Commission says it is taking the allegations "quite seriously."

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