Tuesday

12th Dec 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."

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.

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.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government