Friday

13th Dec 2019

Few migrants returned to Turkey under 2016 deal

  • Conditions for migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek islands remain dire (Photo: Save the Children)

The vast majority of people arriving on the Greek islands from Turkey to seek asylum are not being returned, as was demanded under an EU-Turkey migrant swap deal.

Maria Stavropoulou, the former head of the Greek asylum service, told Kathimerini newspaper on Sunday (11 February) that only 16 percent of the asylum seekers can be sent back to Turkey.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

"Given what we know about Turkey, those who can be shipped back are mostly Syrians, who enjoy a high level of protection," she was cited as saying in the Greek newspaper.

The EU and Ankara had patched together an agreement in March 2016 to stem the flows of asylum seekers from Turkey to the Greek islands, in exchange for political and financial concessions. The deal included the EU doling out billions to help Syrian refugees in Turkey.

A key part of the agreement involved that for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian would be resettled to Europe from Turkey directly.

Fewer than 2,000 have been returned between March 2016 and November 2017, according to the European Commission. Around 12,000 Syrians have resettled from Turkey.

Turkey grants temporary protection status to Syrians but not to other nationalities, posing broader questions on whether the country is a safe place for people from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Although many of the some 3 million Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey have been granted temporary protection status and provided with basic services, reports of abuse and discrimination are also not uncommon.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said guards at Turkey's closed border with Syria "are indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning Syrian asylum seekers attempting to cross into Turkey."

Asylum seekers that crossed into Greece and then told to return to Turkey can appeal those decisions in a Greek court.

Last year, a top administrative court in Greece had also rejected the appeals of two Syrians who refused to return to Turkey. The court declared Turkey safe. But the Greek appeals process system is broadly over-stretched, leading to long delays.

Administrative bottlenecks has also, in part, resulted in deplorable conditions for those stuck at overcrowded reception centres on the Greek islands.

Last week the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) cited a spike in sexual harassment and violence at reception centres on the Lesvos and Samos islands. Women and children are afraid of going to toilets at night.

"Even bathing during day time can be dangerous. In Moria [Lesbos island], one woman told our teams that she had not taken a shower in two months from fear," said UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly, in a statement.

Close to 30,000 people arrived by boat to the Greek islands from Turkey last year, compared to 173,000 in 2016, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration.

Just under 1,600 have made the same trip this year so far.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

EU-Turkey migrant deal redundant, rights chief says

Nils Muiznieks, human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe watchdog, said people would no longer cross into Greece from Turkey due to difficulties getting further - regardless of the EU migrant deal with Ankara.

Analysis

EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery

The EU-Turkey deal was agreed two years ago in Brussels. Focus has largely been on reducing migrant flows across the Mediterranean and helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, while the plight of those on the Greek islands are ignored.

Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres

A trend has emerged over the past few months where desperate people are paying to get locked up in Libyan detention centres to escape the conflict and with the hope they stand a better chance of getting resettled to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Slovenia, Croatia ex-leaders highlight jailed Catalans
  2. Italian court tells Facebook to reopen fascist party's account
  3. EU extends sanctions on Russia until mid-2020
  4. UK exit poll gives Johnson majority of 86
  5. Orban: 'financial guarantees' to reach climate neutrality
  6. Merkel hopes EU leaders agree 2050 climate-neutrality
  7. Czech PM: nuclear energy needed for climate neutrality
  8. Hungary: Climate target is burden, EU should help

Interview

EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration

Europe's obsession with migration from Africa means it risks losing out the continent's potential when it comes to trade, says the EU's ambassador to the African Union, Ranier Sabatucci. "Africa is a growing continent, it is the future," he says.

Feature

Malmo, a segregated city - separating fact from fiction

Despite the neighbourhood's beautiful name, the reputation of Rosengård (Rose Garden) does not so much evoke images of roses as headlines of crime and social challenges. This area of Malmö has been struggling with its notorious, mythical, image for years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Huge win for Conservatives in UK election
  2. Behind bars: a visit to an imprisoned Catalan politician
  3. Leaders agree 2050 climate neutrality - without Poland
  4. EU leaders cagey on 'Future of Europe' conference
  5. Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit
  6. Revealed: little evidence to justify internal border checks
  7. Europe needs to make mind up on relations with Africa
  8. Leaders face crucial EU summit for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us