27 November 2015

On 29 November, EU Heads of State and governments will meet with Turkey with the aim of adopting a Joint Action Plan, EU Council President Donald Tusk announced last Wednesday. The meeting follows a series of high level talks between the European Commission and Turkey as well as a number of bilateral meetings Tusk had with President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu.

According to the EU Turkey Action Plan, Turkey is asked to control and prevent further irregular migrant arrivals.  The EU is offering €3 billion for refugee facilities in Turkey, accelerating negotiations on visa liberalisation and restarting EU accession talks. A diplomat has been quoted as saying that ‘the EU Commission plans to put up “less than half” of the €3 billion from the common budget, with member states to pledge the rest, on the model of a recently-agreed EU-Africa fund.’

In the Joint Action Plan the EU committed to support Turkey hosting 2.2 million Syrian refugees, with assistance for the host communities and local solutions for the medium and long term. The      Refugee Facility for Turkey will be available as of 1 January 2016. According to the European Commission’s 2015 progress report, Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey have no access to asylum procedures. Moreover, without access to employment, many face difficult living conditions and have limited access to other fundamental services. The report also notes that ‘around 500,000 refugee children have no access to education.’

Since March 2015, Turkey has increasingly strengthened border controls and currently prevents all Syrian refugees from entering the country through official and non-official border crossings. In the 2015 Progress Report on Turkey, the European Commission spoke of “incidents where Turkey did not respect the principle of “non-refoulement”.

On 23 November Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report that shows how refugees fleeing Syria are blocked at the Turkish border and forcibly sent back to Syria, in violation of the international principle of non-refoulement. HRW interviewed refugees who were immediately returned, while others were detained. Many refugees HRW talked to were beaten or were exposed to shootings by officials at the Syrian-Turkish border.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.