28 February 2014

The European Parliament has this week endorsed the EU-Turkey readmission agreement which had been signed by both parties in December 2013. The agreement lays down the obligations and procedures for taking back migrants entering or living irregularly in Turkey or the EU. It will oblige both sides to readmit their own nationals, third-country nationals without residence documents and stateless persons who entered either the EU or Turkey via the other. Thus, Turkey will be required to re-admit asylum seekers who transited via Turkey to the EU whose applications for protection in a Member State have been rejected.

Under the agreement, Turkey will receive financial and technical help from the EU to strengthen its border police and install border surveillance equipment. According to the European Parliament, this will help Turkey to make its borders with neighbouring countries, such as Syria, Iran and Iraq, more secure.

The agreement also sets out an accelerated procedure, which has been agreed upon for persons apprehended at the border. In light of the state of the national asylum systems and border practices in Greece and Bulgaria, Oktay Durukan, from the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly, fears that asylum seekers will be arbitrarily denied access to an asylum procedure in these countries and then quickly returned under the agreement.

Piril Erçoban, from Mülteci-Der, expressed concerns in December when the agreement was signed that “no Turkish court will examine whether [the asylum procedures] were conducted unfairly in an EU country, or if they were conducted at all”.

This week, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Migreurop urged the European Parliament to vote against this agreement until the full respect of rights of migrants and refugees can be guaranteed at all stages of the readmission procedure.

According to the press release of the European Parliament, ‘to enter into force, the readmission agreement still needs to be formally ratified by the EU and by Turkey. Its provisions on EU and Turkish nationals would take effect two months after ratification is completed, but those on nationals from third countries with which Turkey has not concluded bilateral arrangements would take effect only three years later’.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 February 2014
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