Sunday

29th Jan 2023

NGOs tell Athens that Turkey is not safe for refugees

  • Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees (Photo: European Parliament)
Listen to article

European civil society organisations are demanding Athens no longer view Turkey as safe to return refugees.

A letter signed by 16 NGO says that Turkey is in violation of international law when it comes to asylum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Sent to the Greek ministry of migration and asylum, with the European Commission in copy, the letter further notes that Turkey no longer grants temporary protection status to Syrian refugees.

They also say Turkey is forcing people back into Syria, an accusation also levied by Human Rights Watch earlier this month.

Turkey, for its part, has dismissed those findings and has received some €4.7bn of EU funds to help support the 3.6 million Syrian refugee it currently hosts.

That money came from a 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey to prevent people from taking boats to Greece in exchange for political concessions. Turkey will no longer accept the returns of refugees from Greece under the deal.

Greece, on the other hand, wants to deport asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia back to Turkey.

Athens had also last year adopted a joint ministerial decision determining that Turkey was safe enough for them, cutting short their asylum rights and claims.

But with Greece set to re-examine the designation of Turkey as a "safe third country" next month, the NGOs are hoping a recent European Commission report will convince Athens to reconsider its position.

The European Commission's report on Turkey in mid-October highlighted troubling developments in the country.

Although it noted Ankara had made improvements in terms of surveillance and protection of the land border with Iran, it also found Turkey "would no longer admit migrants into its territories."

Ankara had also stopped registrations of applications for international and temporary protection in several provinces.

The move comes ahead of a general election in Turkey next year and against a backdrop of growing xenophobia and backlash against refugees.

Similar criticisms were put forward by Human Rights Watch, which said Turkey was beating Syrian refugees back into northern Syrian enclaves.

The NGO then demanded that the European Commission make clear its position on Turkey.

Specifically, Human Rights Watch asked the European Commission to publicly clarify that Turkey is not a safe place.

Under EU law, a country cannot be considered safe if it forcibly pushes back people against their will into another country.

The same law also states that life and liberty must not be threatened and that there is no risk of serious harm.

But when asked by this website if Turkey adheres to those conditions [article 38 of EU Asylum Procedures Directive], the commission gave a mixed response.

It said that under the 2016 deal, Turkey's "legal framework on international protection can be considered as sufficient protection or protection equivalent to that of the Geneva Convention."

However, it also said Turkey remains bound to implement the 2016 deal in a way which ensures full protection of fundamental rights in line with the EU standards.

Turkey beating Syrian refugees back to Syria, says rights NGO

Turkey has beaten and forced hundreds of recognised Syrian refugees back into Syria, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. "We wrote hundreds but I imagine it's maybe the tip of the iceberg," said one of its researchers.

Syria refugees prefer Libya sea-crossing to 'dangerous' Greece

A group of Syrians fleeing their country say that Greece has become too dangerous and expensive as an option to enter the EU, in order to claim asylum. They have instead opted for Libya and the highly-risky Mediterranean sea-crossing.

Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO

Afghan and Syrian nationals are being abused at EU-funded removal centres in Turkey amid a lack of proper monitoring, says Human Rights Watch. The findings come at a time when Turkey is deporting large numbers of Afghans back to Kabul.

Column

Six reasons why 'where are you really from?' is racist

Next time you think people should not be criticised for "just being curious" about someone's origin, ask yourself just why that harmless extra sub-question only ever surfaces around non-white Europeans.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us