Sunday

30th Apr 2017

UN struggles to monitor fate of readmitted Syrians in Turkey

  • The UNHCR says it lacks the "unhindered and predictable access" to refugee centres in Turkey. (Photo: European Parliament)

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is finding it difficult to monitor the fate of Syrians sent back from Greece despite formal guarantees under the EU migrant deal with Turkey.

In a letter dated 23 December and addressed to a Greek lawyer, the agency says it lacks the "unhindered and predictable access to pre-removal centres in Turkey and to the Duzici reception centre."

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.

It also complained that Turkey does not "systematically" share the legal status and whereabouts of readmitted Syrians, making monitoring all the more problematic.

The letter was citing figures from early November, noting that out of the 82 Syrians returned, it was only able to confirm 12 had been granted temporary status.

"Despite its best efforts, the UNHCR has not been able to contact the majority of the others," says the letter.

But Turkey's directorate general for migration management (DGMM) earlier this week told the European Commission that it had granted protection status to 131 out of 141 readmitted Syrians. The remaining 10 were sent back to Syria.

Although Turkey appears to be cooperating somewhat, administrative bottlenecks are making the UN's job difficult.

The UNHCR has to ask for permission to visit a refugee centre at least five days in advance, for instance.

After having made 16 requests to visit Duzici, it was granted access only 12 times. During those visits, it was only able to conduct individual interviews with around half of the Syrians.

Safeguards needed

Vincent Cochetel, who oversees the UNHCR's European operations, had already spoken out last September.

"We thought we had permission, we were not given access. For us that is an important aspect of the safeguards," he told this website at an event organised by European Policy Centre in Brussels.

When pressed over the blockade, EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos at the time said Turkey was applying "adequate standards".

Turkey under the deal with the EU last March had "provided formal guarantees" that all the Syrian refugees readmitted to the country would be protected. Ankara had also introduced legislative amendments to its legal system.

"This appears to be sufficient protection equivalent to that foreseen by the Geneva Convention," the EU commission said on Wednesday.

Ankara's geographical restriction in the convention means only European nationals are granted full refugee status.

The EU says Turkey, under EU asylum laws, can be deemed a "safe third country" for non-Syrians and a "first country of asylum" for Syrians.

Around 838 people were returned to Turkey from Greece last year under the deal. Another 1,183 were sent back under a separate bilateral readmission agreement between the two countries.

No Syrian has been forced to return to Turkey under the EU deal, although one group of Syrians were allegedly tricked into being deported from Greece. The low number of returns has intensified pressure on Greek authorities to fast track applications and appeals.

Turkey hosts some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Of those, around 10,000 have been given work permits since last September.

EU states on hook for humanitarian visas

EU states ought to grant humanitarian visas to people in need, an EU court advisor has said, after Belgium refused permits for a Christian family from Aleppo.

Donors pledge billions for Syria amid European shame

Donors pledged €5.5 billion in aid for Syria for 2017 and another €3.47 billion up until 2020. The figures contrast the number of refugees hosted by Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey when compared to Europe.

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. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual