The proposed EU-Turkey deal is controversial. Many countries have already issued harsh criticism on it. Although ECPM has already urged for the membership negotiations to be frozen immediately, there are more problems with this deal – especially concerning the refugees.
According to UNHCR data, 91% of people crossing by sea from Turkey to Greece since 1 January 2016 come from Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq and are therefore highly likely to have the right of international protection. It is quite controversial and could be claimed illegal to send back people who clearly can apply for asylum. A country like Turkey, that has forcibly returned some refugees to a war country like Syria, cannot be considered a safe third country for them at this moment.
Europe can create a plan to reject people who come illegally and control its external borders. However, so far the illegal way was the only route for refugees to come to Europe. This situation is unsustainable: those refugees took the only option and route they had to apply for asylum in Europe. We support a compassionate response to this refugee crisis. This should include safe and legal channels to protection, reducing the incentive for people to take the boats, resettlement for refugees who are now in Greece and the Balkans and the reviewing of individual applications of asylum claims in Europe. The European Union has to share the responsibility of protection and assistance with Turkey and other countries in the region.
However, it is contradictory when Europe preaches democracy and human rights while making deals and restarting negotiations about EU membership with Turkey. The Turkish government is being accused of persecuting opponents, not respecting freedom of expression and not respecting human rights. We have warned before that Europe must not close its door to those running from war and persecution as it is the case of Syrian Christians and other minorities. In case deportations will take place, ECPM believes that people from vulnerable groups should not be returned to Turkey at this moment.