Brussels, 8 March 2016. The EU-Turkey Summit of 7 March 2016 demonstrated a continued lack of moral leadership in Europe’s response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis for refugees in Europe. Focusing yet again on reducing the number of people arriving is a shameful and short-sighted approach which will only result in the opening of new and more dangerous routes for those fleeing violence and state failure.
EU Member States have a legal obligation to provide access to fair asylum procedures at their borders. The “one-for-one” proposal to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey in the EU for each Syrian refugee readmitted to Turkey from Greece runs counter to the right to asylum as guaranteed under Article 18 of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights.
ECRE welcomes the proposal to resettle people from Turkey as mass resettlement programmes from Syria and neighbouring countries should be a central part of the international response to the conflict. However, making any resettlement programme conditional on an exchange which involves people risking their lives to seek protection establishes a morally repugnant precedent. Resettlement should be treated as distinct from readmission and other deterrence measures. Finally, the EU Member States’ commitment to resettle people from Turkey is not guaranteed because there are no pledges of resettlement places. Without concrete offers, there is a serious risk that the deal creates de facto a mechanism solely for readmission to Turkey, and then from Turkey back to countries of origin.
The EU is thus outsourcing its responsibilities to protect refugees to Turkey, an immoral move which allows it to circumvent its obligations under international and European asylum and human rights law. Trading in people is the dehumanising expression of a failed European asylum policy and of the lack of solidarity within the EU. The proposal to create safe areas within Syria as a long term solution for refugees risks taking the logic of containment to the extreme.
“We agree that it is important “to break the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe” as the EU-Turkey statement says. This is why ECRE advocates for safe and legal channels for people in need of protection, including issuing humanitarian visas, large-scale resettlement programmes, and application of family reunification policies” stated Catherine Woollard, ECRE’s Secretary General.
ECRE has repeatedly opposed designating Turkey a safe third country: a range of sources, including the AIDA report on Turkey, provide evidence that the current conditions do not ensure that the fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are respected in Turkey.
“Turkey is currently hosting over 2 million Syrian refugees many of whom face serious challenges in accessing services, education and the labour market. There is a risk of exploitation, with child labour a major concern as over 700,000 Syrian children are not in school,” Woollard continued. “Sending people back to Turkey is not a durable solution, and certainly not one that takes into account the human rights of refugees and migrants.”
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Brussels, 8 March 2016