4 December 2015

The 29 November meeting between EU Heads of State and the Turkish Prime Minister finalised the agreement between the EU and Turkey for the control of migratory flows. On the basis of the Joint Action Plan, the EU is offering 3 billion euros under the EU Refugee Facility for Turkey to assist the country in dealing with the high numbers of refugees, to support Syrians under temporary protection and help host communities. In return, Turkey will prevent onward travel to EU countries and take back people found not to be in need of international protection. Other measures offered to Turkey include visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals by October 2016 and the reopening of the accession process.  

In a statement issued on Tuesday 1 December, ECRE expressed deep concerns that the agreement will result in an increased risk of refoulement and human rights violations. ECRE fears that the current deal will not only result in boats being turned back and increased detention, but also more refugees stranded at the Turkish-Syrian border. A day after the agreement was signed, 1,300 asylum seekers and migrants were arrested by Turkish police in the south-western part of the country, in an effort to stop people from attempting the journey to Greece. Moreover, reports by Human Rights Watch highlight how Syrians are being denied entry to Turkey at the border and being pushed back to Syria. This is particularly worrying, especially in light of the newly released UNHCR Guidance Note on International Protection Consideration with regards to people fleeing Syria, which explicitly states that “the human rights situation in Syria continues to deteriorate” and that returns to Syria should not be carried out at all costs.

“As long as there are people fleeing from persecution, no matter how strict the border controls are, they will not be stopped from trying to reach safety.  The EU needs to meet its responsibilities and avoid more human misery,” Piril Erçoban from Mülteci-Der stated.

Turkey currently does not grant full legal status to refugees: in practice, many asylum seekers and refugees face concrete obstacles in accessing basic services, including education, employment and social assistance. Constrained by language barriers and limited right to work, most asylum seekers and refugees live in precarious conditions, including over 700,000 Syrian refugee children who have no access to school. All this is taking place in an increasingly hostile climate for human rights protection in the country, as highlighted by the EU progress report.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 December 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.