At least 35 asylum seekers who applied for protection in Greece, had their claims rejected on admissibility grounds and appealed the decision, received a positive outcome of their appeal. Their applications had been rejected in first instance on the grounds that Turkey is a Safe Third Country which can offer adequate protection to refugees.

The Athens Appeals Committee ruled instead that Turkey does not afford refugees the full protection required under the Refugee Convention and that the country does not comply with the principle of non-refoulement. The appeal decision did not consider the merits of the claim, but only the admissibility of the application in relation to the correct application of the Safe Third Country concept.

The first decision, handed on 20 May 2016, was hailed by several human rights organisation as proof that the EU-Turkey deal is unworkable and should cease to exist. “This decision goes to the heart of why the EU-Turkey deal was so deeply flawed to begin with,” Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International stated. A European Commission spokesperson, however, defended the validity of the EU-Turkey agreement, stating that these decisions only mean that there would be no blanket or automatic returns of people to Turkey.

The past week was also marked by the first case related to the EU-Turkey deal to reach the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Three Greek lawyers cooperating with ECRE members Pro Asyl and the Greek Council for Refugees applied for interim suspensive measures at the ECtHR to stop the deportation to Turkey of a Syrian man persecuted by ISIS.

The asylum seeker was sought by ISIS in Turkey who demanded that he return to Syria to work for oil production in an ISIS-controlled area. He was at particular risk also because of his homosexuality. His application was deemed inadmissible but his claim was not examined on the merits. The Appeals Committee ruled in his case that it was safe for him to return to Turkey because he had lived there for several years. The lawyers then referred his case to the European Court of Human Rights to stop the deportation, which they believe would put the asylum seeker and his fundamental rights at serious risk.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 June 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.