As early as October of 2015 Merkel traveled to Istanbul to convince the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to stop refugees from crossing over into Greece – in the middle of Erdogan's election campaign. Foto: REUTERS/Tolga Bozoglu/Pool New

On Wednesday in Brussels the European Commission specified the plans for the EU-Turkey deal. Criticism voiced by the UN, the Council of Europe and human rights organizations beforehand did have some effect. However, the plans still violate fundamental human rights. The “Turkish solution” is a direct assault on the right of asylum.

On Fri­day 18 March 2016 the new deal with Tur­ki­sh Prime Minis­ter Davu­toğ­lu is sup­po­sed to be cut and dried. The mee­ting of the Euro­pean heads of govern­ment in Brussels is aimed at that: Tur­key is to decla­re its com­mit­ment to the “return of all new irre­gu­lar migrants and asyl­um see­kers from Greece to Tur­key“. While the Euro­pean Uni­on dis­cus­ses desi­gna­ting Tur­key as a „safe third coun­try“ for pro­tec­tion appli­cants, more and more wes­tern jour­na­lists lea­ve the coun­try becau­se they no lon­ger feel safe there.

“The­se plans are sim­ply illegal”

Vehe­ment cri­ti­cism of the plan­ned deal has alre­a­dy been voi­ced in the run-up to it. On 8 March Filip­po Gran­di, the United Nati­ons High Com­mis­sio­ner for Refu­gees sta­ted: “As a first reac­tion, I am deep­ly con­cer­ned about any arran­ge­ment that would invol­ve the blan­ket return of anyo­ne from one coun­try to ano­ther wit­hout spel­ling out the refu­gee pro­tec­tion safe­guards under inter­na­tio­nal law.” The Coun­cil of Euro­pe’s Com­mis­sio­ner for Human Rights found simi­lar­ly clear words: “The­se plans are sim­ply ille­gal”.

Wishful thin­king while human rights are being violated

The mas­si­ve cri­ti­cism did­n’t remain inef­fec­ti­ve. On 16 March 2016 the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on spe­ci­fied its plans: In the EU an indi­vi­du­al deter­mi­na­ti­on of refu­gee sta­tus in each case is cal­led for and a “blan­ket” return poli­cy is to be ruled out. The list of things that would have to hap­pen accor­ding to the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on befo­re the Euro­pean Uni­on’s out­sour­cing pro­gram might be rea­li­zed is end­less: It appears that to app­ly the­se pro­vi­si­ons chan­ges would be requi­red to both Greek and Tur­ki­sh dome­stic legis­la­ti­on. In the case of Greece, this appli­es to the sta­tus of Tur­key as a „safe third coun­try“ and […] [in] the case of Tur­key, this appli­es […] [to] access to effec­ti­ve asyl­um pro­ce­du­res for all per­sons in need of inter­na­tio­nal protection […].“

That Tur­key com­pli­es with the prin­ci­ple of non-refou­le­ment is not­hing but wishful thin­king: “The prin­ci­ple of non-refou­le­ment should be respec­ted by Tur­key in all cases, in line with exis­ting inter­na­tio­nal obli­ga­ti­ons”. Rein­hard Marx – an expert on asyl­um law –  has for­mu­la­ted a legal exper­ti­se for PRO ASYL in which he con­cludes: “The prin­ci­ple of non-refou­le­ment […] pro­hi­bits remo­ving refu­gees from natio­nal ter­ri­to­ry and also tur­ning them away at the bor­der of the con­trac­ting sta­tes. […] It is clear that Tur­key has not suf­fi­ci­ent­ly trans­po­sed non-refou­le­ment, which is bin­ding under inter­na­tio­nal law, and that Tur­ki­sh law does not pro­hi­bit tur­ning away refu­gees see­king pro­tec­tion at the bor­der.” Addi­tio­nal­ly he found that in prac­ti­ce, “Tur­key does not obser­ve non-refou­le­ment as a pro­hi­bi­ti­on of both tur­ning away and deport­ing refugees.”

Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on: Tur­key is not a “safe third country”

The Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on tri­es to play down and obfus­ca­te the legal obs­ta­cles of the EU-Tur­key deal. Accor­ding to law in the Euro­pean Uni­on a “safe third coun­try” has to have signed the Con­ven­ti­on rela­ting to the Sta­tus of Refu­gees wit­hout reser­va­tions. The Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on now mere­ly talks of “equi­va­lent pro­tec­tion” to the Con­ven­ti­on. That amounts to admit­ting that Tur­key does not meet the neces­sa­ry con­di­ti­ons now. The requi­red pro­tec­tion is not available in Tur­key: The Con­ven­ti­on does not app­ly to refu­gees from Syria, Iraq and other non-Euro­pean countries.

Greece: Deso­la­te asyl­um sys­tem and increase of detenti­on capacities

Car­ry­ing out case-by-case pro­ce­du­res for all pro­tec­tion appli­cants arri­ving in Greece is, in view of the fac­tual­ly non-exis­tent asyl­um sys­tem in Greece, unfe­a­si­ble. Greece does­n’t have the means to imple­ment fair asyl­um pro­ce­du­res. In the month of March around 1,300 pro­tec­tion appli­cants  rea­ched the Greek islands dai­ly, 143,634 sin­ce the begin­ning of the year. The dan­ge­rous pas­sa­ge alre­a­dy cost the lives of 354 indi­vi­du­als this year alone.

On top of this the­re is no suf­fi­ci­ent­ly equip­ped court sys­tem in Greece which would allow to exami­ne aut­ho­ri­ties’ decis­i­ons by the courts – asyl­um pro­ce­du­res accor­ding to rule of law are thus not gua­ran­teed. A digni­fy­ing recep­ti­on sys­tem does­n’t exist in Greece eit­her. Right now around 50,000 refu­gees resi­de in Greece but the capa­ci­ty to house them extends only to 30,000. This includes seve­ral sta­di­ums, bar­racks or emp­ty indus­tri­al buil­dings – the con­di­ti­ons are miserable.

Despi­te the com­ple­te­ly unac­cep­ta­ble con­di­ti­ons for pro­tec­tion see­kers, Greece is sup­po­sed to beco­me a catch­ment area for thou­sands of refu­gees. The Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on demands the con­s­truc­tion of addi­tio­nal “sepa­ra­te faci­li­ties for irre­gu­lar migrants” and the increase of detenti­on capa­ci­ties to          arrest asyl­um see­kers if the­re is a risk of them going into hiding. The­re is a loo­ming that Greece return to an exces­si­ve prac­ti­ce of inc­ar­ce­ra­ti­on which has been hea­vi­ly cri­ti­ci­zed in the past and has been con­dem­ned by the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights.

Mind-bogg­ling 1:1 deal

For every Syri­an refu­gee Tur­key takes back via boat, ano­ther Syri­an refu­gee is allo­wed to resett­le legal­ly to Euro­pe. This bizar­re approach con­ti­nues to be held by the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on. Only if a Syri­an pro­tec­tion appli­cant risks her or his life on the pas­sa­ge and then is deli­ver­ed back in a fast-track pro­ce­du­re, a resett­le­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty for ano­ther pro­tec­tion appli­cant from Syria beco­mes available. For other refu­gees arri­ving on boats – for exam­p­le from Afgha­ni­stan, Iraq, Iran  or Eri­trea – the­re is no legal way.

At the moment appro­xi­m­ate­ly 18,000 resett­le­ment admis­si­ons agreed upon in July of 2015 are still available. If the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on has its way, 54,000 addi­tio­nal ones ori­gi­nal­ly meant for reli­ef of Mem­ber Sta­tes at the Euro­pean exter­nal bor­ders are to be used for resett­le­ment from Tur­key as requi­red. This is an absurd deal, which plays off Syri­an pro­tec­tion appli­cants against others. Sin­ce the rea­di­ness for relo­ca­ti­on within Euro­pe is almost nil the deal seems down­right unre­al. It is not only cyni­cal but also divorced from rea­li­ty. Resett­le­ment is an act of huma­ne­n­ess and soli­da­ri­ty and is being com­ple­te­ly demo­lished by this 1:1 deal.

“Safe zones in Syria”: Refu­gees as vic­tims of the inte­rests of mili­ta­ry policy

In its state­ment the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on again aims for refu­gees to be able to live in so-cal­led “safe zones” in Syria. Tur­key intends to pre­vent the for­ma­ti­on of coher­ent Kur­dish ter­ri­to­ries by all means available. Refu­gees are at risk of being used in the game of regio­nal mili­ta­ry poli­cy and that the Euro­pean Uni­on ther­eby pro­vi­des Tur­key with the basis for mili­ta­ry intervention.

We con­ti­nue to say no to this dir­ty deal with Tur­key! Tog­e­ther with our part­ner orga­niza­ti­ons in Euro­pe we will advo­ca­te for pro­tec­tion appli­cants in the Aege­an not to be mere objects of a Euro­pean return mechanism.