4 March 2016

On Wednesday 2 March, the European Commission announced that Greece was in the process of returning 308 people who had entered Greece irregularly, back to Turkey, stepping up its efforts to ensure an effective return policy. They are mainly of Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian origin.

According to the Greek police, as of yesterday, 267 of the planned deportations had been carried out. Of the remaining 41, 7 were refused admission to Turkey due to some discrepancy in the registration of their data by the two countries, 7 had to stay in Samos due to weather conditions and will be deported at a later stage, 26 applied for asylum and one person was granted protection on humanitarian grounds for health reasons.

The returns took place under the Greek-Turkish Readmission Agreement signed in 2002. The Agreement does not provide any explicit guarantees to respect the human rights of migrants, as reported by UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau in 2013. Considering the systemic deficiencies of the asylum system in Greece, the UN Rapporteur highlighted the fact that “there is a serious risk that persons returned under the readmission agreement with Turkey might indeed be in need of protection.”

There is a lack of information available about the fate of those returned to Turkey. In particular, it is not clear what safeguards will be applied to them, or whether they will be returned to their countries of origin, or will remain in Turkey, and if so, under what conditions.

ECRE expresses its concerns at the potential lack of human rights safeguards for those returned to Turkey. In light of the upcoming EU-Turkey Summit on 7 March, ECRE reiterates its calls that while return of those not in need of international protection is an essential component of sound migration management, return and readmission should always ensure human rights safeguards and respect the principle of non-refoulement.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 March 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.