20th Mar 2018

Turkey denies protection to returning Syrians

A migrant swap deal with Ankara is progressing well despite returning Syrians being denied guaranteed protection status in Turkey, says the EU commission.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters on Wednesday (28 September) that "adequate standards" were in place for those returned under the March deal.

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.

But earlier in the day, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said not a single Syrian returned from Greece has been granted any temporary protection status, despite the "formal guarantees" under the EU's deal with Ankara.

"As we speak today, none of the Syrians that have returned to Turkey have got temporary protection," Vincent Cochetal, UNHCR's Europe director, told this website.

Turkey is also supposed to allow the UN agency access to facilities where the returning Syrians are temporarily sheltered.

But access to the centre has been blocked since a failed military coup in July.

"We thought we had permission, we were not given access. For us that is an important aspect of the safeguards," he said.

Speed up returns

Instead, Avramopoulos said they intended to "speed up returns" when asked how the fate of returned Syrians in Turkey and the UN agency blockade complies with his definition of "adequate standards".

"The situation within Turkey is exactly as it was before. Turkish authorities are providing Syrians with their support and help," he told Euobserver.

But the UNHCR is sending out an entirely different message.

Cochetal said the returnees were being forced through a security screening process that was taking too long.

"Those security screenings should take in principle one month but are taking a much longer period of time," he said.

The issue poses larger questions over the EU legal claim that Turkey is a safe country for people returned from Greece.

People that cross the Aegean sea to Greece are shuffled under the scheme's 'inadmissibility' category. Inadmissibility means the substance of a person's claim to asylum is not scrutinised by Greek authorities.

Instead, the Greeks probe to see if Turkey is deemed a "safe third country", or a place that provides what Avramopoulos has described in vague terms as "adequate standards".

Greek authorities will be even more hard pressed to return any Syrian if Turkey denies them temporary protection status as promised.

Out of the 578 who have ended up back in Turkey under the scheme, only 51 are Syrians. And they volunteered to go back.

"It is possible that they [Syrians] gave up after months and weeks of waiting on the islands," Karl Kopp, director of the German-based NGO Pro Asyl, told this website earlier this month.

The NGO represented nine Syrians in Greece facing deportation to Turkey in April. The Greek administrative appeals committee found that Turkey was not a "safe third country" for Syrian refugees.

Conditions dire on Greek islands

To add to the woes, thousands of people are stuck on the Greek islands with reports surfacing of suicides and fights. Strikes among aid workers are also reported given the poor conditions and insecurity.

Less than five percent of asylum claims by Afghans and Iraqis on the islands have been processed, says the UN. And none have had their claims registered in the past six months.

Another 47,000 are stranded on the Greek mainland. The vast majority are from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Around 7,500 of those are in apartments or in hotels. The rest are living in camps where women and girls risk violence.

"Women and girls are living in a constant state of insecurity and fear," said Iverna McGowan at Amnesty International's EU office. Basic measures like proper lighting, separate toilets and showers, are often absent.

Yet, since last year, Greece has been granted some €352 million in emergency funds from the EU commission to address the short comings. But administrative complications and bottlenecks on the Greek side means €90 million has been awarded to the government.

The bulk is going to aid agencies and NGOs.

Greece has also been returning Moroccans to Turkey, mostly by bus through land border crossing points by hundreds, under a separate bilateral readmission agreement it has with Ankara.

EU funds for Bulgaria target border security

Reception and detention facilities in Bulgaria are in poor shape but most of the €108-million emergency aid package announced by the EU commission will go to border security and surveillance.

EU willing to keep contact with Turkey

The European Commission said it was "gravely concerned" by arrests of political leaders, but is not considering suspending accession talks.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

EU billions had 'limited' effect in Turkey, audit finds

The EU got "limited" effect for the €9bn it spent trying to modernise Turkey in recent years, auditors have said. Turkey has been "backsliding" on reforms since 2013 due to "lack of political will", the European Court of Auditors found.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders expected to approve Brexit future talks guidelines
  2. Tusk: EU must 'continue to engage' with US on trade
  3. European elections set for 23-26 May 2019
  4. EU tries to find common candidate for top UN food job
  5. Facebook post triggers Norway no-confidence vote
  6. Merkel: 'no reason' to sanction Schroeder for Russia support
  7. MEPs and Council strike deal on posted workers' rights
  8. EU parliament to investigate Facebook data 'breach'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverHiring - Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience - Apply Now!
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections