11 March 2016
A one-for-one plan to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey to Europe for every Syrian refugee readmitted from Greece to Turkey was decided last Monday, 7 March at a meeting between the EU head of states and Turkey’s Prime Minister Davutoglu and chaired by the European Council’s President Donald Tusk.
The plan was heavily criticised by many human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, UNICEF and UNHCR. During the EP plenary session on Tuesday, the High Commissioner Grandi stated that he is “deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law”. Returning people to Turkey without assessing their needs would constitute a violation of the 1951 Convention.
ECRE has also called on the EU to uphold its protection obligations and not to outsource protection responsibility. It was particularly critical of the dehumanising practice of exchanging people between countries. The European Union has the obligation to provide refugees with protection and safe access to the asylum system.
“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” said Catherine Wollard, ECRE’s Secretary General.
The implementation of this strategy would involve the designation of Turkey as a “safe third country”, even though it is clear that Turkey cannot ensure all refugees basic safeguards. Refugees have limited access to basic services such as education, health care and employment and remain at heightened risk of exploitation and physical danger.