Friday

28th Apr 2017

EU defends Turkey deal in light of Greek court ruling

The European Commission on Monday (23 May) tried to fend off suggestions that a decision by the Greek appeals committee last Friday not to send back a Syrian refugee to Turkey throws the EU-Turkey migrant deal into chaos.

The bloc’s executive claimed the Greek decision only underlines that there is no blanket return of asylum-seekers from Greece to Turkey.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“We were adamant […] that all people before being subject to the return procedure will be heard according to European and international law, and this is what is happening,” the commission's spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

“There would be no blanket, no automatic return of asylum seekers, this [decision] vindicates what we have claimed,” he added.

A Greek appeals committee last Friday upheld the appeal of a Syrian asylum seeker who had been listed for deportation under the EU-Turkey deal.

According to media reports, the tribunal in Lesbos said Turkey would not give Syrian refugees the rights they were are entitled under international law.

The decision could be used as a precedent for similar rulings, making it difficult to send back migrants, the original purpose of the EU-Turkey accord.

However, the EU Commission has maintained that the legal framework in Turkey for the protection status to Syrians and non-Syrians appears to be sufficient protection or equivalent protection foreseen by the Geneva Convention.

“The Greek appeals committee made a decision based on a specific case, on the specific circumstances of the person, and not a general decision,” an EU source said, adding that the commission is not aware of the details of the specific case.

“If the appeal would not have produced this result, everybody would be saying the EU is sending back people en masse,” another EU official quipped.

Asylum seekers have five days to decisions that dismiss their claim for protection.

According to EU sources, “a large number of people” are appealing decisions, adding that cases of asylum seekers in the most vulnerable situations come first.

Officials refused to speculate whether similar decisions could unravel the EU-Turkey deal.

“Asylum seekers might now be encouraged to go to court, and if massive number of appeals are granted, that could bring the whole EU-Turkey deal down,” Wenzel Michalski, the Germany director of Human Rights Watch, and a witness to the first forced returns to Turkey, told EUobserver.

He added that most asylum seekers stuck in Greek camps have no access to free, legal aid in their own language.

He also said that the Greek appeals committee only confirmed what HRW has been saying, that Turkey is not a safe country for refugees, adding that the organization has documented shootings of migrants at the Turkey-Syria border to stop people from crossing.

“European politicians made a purely political decision when they decided Turkey is a safe country, not a decision based on facts,” Michalski added.

The EU executive said 51 people who did not apply for asylum in Greece were sent back to Turkey on Friday, raising the total of returns under the EU-Turkey deal to 441.

Idomeni camp to be cleared

The commission on Monday said it welcomed “any initiative” by the Greek authorities to evacuate the makeshift Idomeni camp, and move the migrants into organised reception facilities.

Greek authorities have been gearing up to clear the camp in dire conditions at the Greek-Macedonian border in the next days, where an estimated 8,400 people hope to move further north along the Western Balkan migration route.

Greek officials have been trying to convince people to move to more permanent camps, but migrants stuck at Idomeni are afraid to move.

Riot police units have been moving in to Idomeni on Monday, in case forced evacuation would become necessary.

About 54,000 migrants have been stuck in Greece since the Western Balkan border closures in March.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  2. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  3. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  4. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies
  5. Report: EU parliament says FN jobs cost €5mn
  6. Turkey suspends 9,000 police officers
  7. May hosts Juncker at Brexit dinner
  8. 700,000 people granted EU asylum

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  2. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act
  3. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  4. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  6. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  7. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  8. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  9. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  10. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  11. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?

Latest News

  1. EPP group frustrated with Orban
  2. Verdacht gegen Russland bezüglich Macronhacking
  3. 'Serene' EU warns UK against Brexit 'illusions'
  4. EU telecom watchdog plan dead on arrival
  5. Russische Fake-News überschwemmen die sozialen Medien Frankreichs
  6. EU agency stuck with London rent bill
  7. EU anti-fraud office ditches Martin Schulz probe
  8. Commission launches bid to make Europe social