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25th Feb 2024

Greek court halts Syrian deportations to 'unsafe' Turkey

  • Migrants leaving Lesbos island (Photo: Reuters)

A Greek appeals committee this week ruled Turkey is not safe enough to return Syrian refugees, casting further doubt on the EU's migrant swap deal with Ankara.

Nine Syrian refugees facing deportation will now remain in Greece following a decision earlier this week by an administrative appeals committee in Lesbos, a Greek island.

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German-based NGO Pro Asyl, which defended the nine people, said the appeals committee will issue more decisionslike that in the near future.

"There are a number of further positive decisions which have not been delivered yet," the NGO said on Wednesday (1 June).

In a separate case, a Syrian, who said he was gay and risked being persecuted in Turkey, was told by Greek authorities on Thursday he would be returned. His appeal was rejected.

The EU deal with Ankara, signed off in March, hinges on designating Turkey as a safe country to send all irregular migrants packing.

Under the terms of the deal, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each one that is returned.

Some 280 Syrians have been resettled to the EU as of late May. But only 441 of the 8,500 people who arrived on the Greek islands since the deal was signed have been returned.

Amnesty International, in a report out on Friday (3 June), also said asylum seekers and refugees are being denied effective protection in Turkey.

“The EU-Turkey deal is reckless and illegal," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, in a statement.

He said Turkey was already unable to respect the rights and meet the needs of over 3 million asylum-seekers and refugees.

"While there is value in supporting and encouraging Turkey to develop a fully functioning asylum system, the EU cannot act as if it already exists," he said.

Over 1 million people arrived last year to seek international protection in Europe. Of those, around 850,000 landed on the Greek islands.

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