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.