Policy Recommendation on EU-Turkey Deal

The EU fails to have an internal agreement, but agreed to have an external deal with Turkey. The European Union will give to Turkey concessions for visas, EU accession talks and billions of Euro to help the refugees. In exchange, Turkey will accept the readmission of Syrians. This Turkish containment strategy has become Europe’s plan to stop the influx of refugees into Europe. It has no other plan to create a safe route for the most vulnerable refugees, or any specific plan to help other countries in the region. Despite the EU deal, Turkey is not a safe country for the refugees.

The ECPM does not support the EU-Turkey deal because of the following legal and moral reasons:

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and international aid agencies working on the Greek islands have denounced the detention of asylum seekers. Since the deal both Turkey and Greece are reported to have detained refugees. The detention of refugees is illegal according to European law.1

  • The deal does not respect international refugee law.2 Each EU member state has a full responsibility to grant asylum to refugees because all of them signed up the Refugee convention in 1951 and ratified the 1967 protocol. Turkey does not grant their rights under the refugee convention.3 4 For example, refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan will not enjoy the rights granted by international law. Group deportations or collective expulsion are strictly forbidden in the international treaties.

  • Turkey harbors more than 2 million Syrians – more than any other country – and gives them the status of nominally protected people. But it does not grant them all the rights they are due under the 1951 refugee convention. In several cases, it has illegally forced Syrians to return to Syria.

  • The deal will establish a centralized EU resettlement mechanism for those recognized as refugees in Turkey. However, this process will rely on commitments from the EU that are not there yet and it will need to rely on the cooperation with Turkey.

  • Human rights organizations and international lawyers consider Turkey not a safe country for many refugees.5The ECPM has access to reports and documents that support the reasons why Turkey is not a safe country for the most vulnerable groups, like several minorities:

    - Christians have to hide in Turkey.6Around 45,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians who fled Syria and Iraq are forced to hide their religious identity.7 Many Christian children do not go to school because of these reasons.8 

    - Yazidi’s are not treated well in Turkey. This has been reported to CPFE by Yazidi representatives and is more widely reported as well.9 

    - It is obvious that a Kurdish – Turkish civil war is happening right now.10 

    - ​Afghans are subject to the deportation agreement that Turkey has with the war zone country Afghanistan.

    - There are reports which highlight that Turkey is not a safe country for women and girls as there is a business of refugee sex trafficking.11 

    Turkey has returned both unregistered as well as registered Syrian refugees back to Syria. Turkish authorities have been expelling groups of around 100 Syrian men, women and children. All forced returns to Syria are illegal under the Turkish, EU and international law.

So far there are many questions to be considered before Turkey meets the criteria to be designated a safe country, especially for the most vulnerable groups.


What should be done?
The EU-Turkey deal is supposed to effectively close the Eastern Mediterranean migration route. However, migrants and refugees will use new routes to reach Europe. Smugglers already opened other ways to reach the EU via Albania, Bulgaria and Libya. Europe needs a refugee policy with both an internal and external dimension that creates a legal route for refugees, protects the most vulnerable and safeguards the human rights of all refugees.

Cooperation with the main Syrian host states – Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan – is crucial. We suggest that instead of giving Turkey billions of euros, the EU should give it directly to the UNHCR and other NGO’s to provide education facilities and to provide better life conditions for the refugees.

The EU should be supporting access to jobs, education, and sustainable opportunities for refugees in those countries and additionally, build up their asylum systems. But the European Union also has to preserve asylum in Europe and work with the Member States to rebuild the EU’s failed Common European Asylum System. There must continue to be safe access to asylum within the EU, direct resettlement from the countries that neighbor Syria, and a reasonable sharing of responsibility across all 28 member states.

The European Union is a free trade area but also a community of values. The ECPM thinks that Europe has been and must continue to be a community of nations where fundamental human rights are safeguarded. Only a genuine European approach, based on solidarity, common understanding among Member States and human dignity, can deal with this situation and give a future to the European Union.


2Criticism (Human Rights Watch), Criticism (Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights).

3It is a safe country if the people concerned do not have their life or liberty threatened on ground of ‘race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’ (from the 1951 Convention).

4While Turkey ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the country maintains a geographical limitation that excludes from protection anyone not originally from a European country. 

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