Left out in the rain: At the border crossing in Idomeni protection applicants remain waiting in the cold. At the same time the European Union's heads of government in Brussels did not strife to come up with a humanitarian solution, but with even stricter policies regarding refugees. Photograph: picture alliance/dpa

The meeting between EU and Turkey sends a devastating signal: Human rights and the rights of refugees are being sacrificed to brutal interest-driven politics. The European heads of state or government are ready to shut their eyes regarding all matters of human rights in Turkey, as long as Turkey's government does its part in stopping refugees.

Tur­key con­fir­med its com­mit­ment „to accept the rapid return of all migrants not in need of inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion cros­sing from Tur­key into Greece“. Addi­tio­nal­ly all „irre­gu­lar migrants“ picked up in Tur­kish waters are to be taken back. The NATO mis­si­on in the Aege­an is sup­po­sed to keep as many boats as pos­si­ble from even reaching Greek waters. Fur­ther mea­su­res are to be deve­lo­ped, accord­ing to the final docu­ment – inclu­ding „to return all new irre­gu­lar migrants cros­sing from Tur­key to the Greek islands“. Indi­vi­du­als‘ right of asyl­um and need for pro­tec­tion do not mat­ter in this sce­n­a­rio. The fact that Tur­key does not have a func­tio­n­ing pro­tec­tion sys­tem is being igno­red. The UNHCR has expres­sed con­cerns in regards to inter­na­tio­nal law in a first state­ment and remin­ded the Euro­pean Uni­on’s heads of government that a blan­ket return of all boat peop­le is not in line with their inter­na­tio­nal obligations.

Vul­nerable indi­vi­du­als play­ed off against each other

Rights to pro­tec­tion are only being attri­bu­t­ed to Syri­an refu­gees which the pro­po­sed deal shows: For every pro­tec­tion app­li­cant from Syria taken back by Tur­key, one Syri­an refu­gee is sup­po­sed to be admit­ted to one of the EU mem­ber sta­tes by means of resett­le­ment. What about refu­gees from Afgha­ni­stan, Iran, Soma­lia, Eri­trea and so on? They are left com­ple­te­ly hel­pless befo­re an ina­de­qua­te pro­tec­tion sys­tem and ongo­ing vio­la­ti­ons of human rights in Tur­key. In this per­f­idious man­ner vul­nerable indi­vi­du­als are being play­ed off against each other. It is fur­ther­mo­re rather ques­tion­ab­le if the sta­tes of the EU will inde­ed admit Syri­an pro­tec­tion app­li­cants. To date the rea­di­ness for admis­si­on in Euro­pe is almost nil. The final docu­ment of the mee­ting expli­ci­tly main­tains: The­re will be no estab­lish­ment of „any new com­mit­ments on Mem­ber Sta­tes as far as relo­ca­ti­on and resett­le­ment is concerned“.

Clo­sing of the Bal­kan route

In Greece neit­her asyl­um pro­ce­du­res nor care for tens of thousands is pos­si­ble. The clo­sing of the Bal­kan rou­te will lead to a dra­ma­tic inten­si­fi­ca­ti­on of the huma­ni­ta­ri­an cri­sis. Alrea­dy more than 14,000 peop­le, inclu­ding 4,000 child­ren  are stuck at the bor­der bet­ween Greece and Mace­do­nia in Ido­me­ni. They dwell in tents, many are sick. In their state­ment the Euro­pean heads of government asser­ted „to end the wave-through approach“: „Irre­gu­lar flows of migrants along the Wes­tern Bal­kans rou­te have now come to an end“. That „end“ means tens of thousands are stuck – without rights and with no pro­tec­tion in sight.

NATO assists in human rights violations

Ships on NATO mis­si­on are meant to also ope­ra­te in Tur­kish waters from now on. By sharing recon­nais­sance and sur­veil­lan­ce infor­ma­ti­on, NATO in coope­ra­ti­on with the Euro­pean bor­der agen­cy Fron­tex intends to sup­port the Greek and Tur­kish coast guards in their fight against traf­fi­ckers. The actu­al aim: to stop refu­gees from reaching the Greek islands by all means. Rights vio­la­ti­ons are being accep­ted even though the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has deci­ded in the case of Hír­si Jamaa and Others v. Ita­ly on the 23rd of Febru­a­ry 2012 that Euro­pean mem­ber sta­tes have to uphold the Euro­pean Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights (ECHR) even out­side of Euro­pean waters. Ger­man and other sol­di­ers are sub­ject to the ECHR. Stop­ping refu­gee boats with NATO sup­port is aiding the vio­la­ti­on of human rights.

„Are­as which will be more safe“ in Syria

The con­ces­si­ons towards the Tur­kish government do not stop at visa libe­ra­liz­a­ti­on for Tur­kish citi­zens, addi­tio­nal fun­ding and the ope­ning of new chap­ters in the acces­si­on nego­tia­ti­ons. Dis­re­gar­ding any con­si­de­ra­ti­ons of human rights, endea­vors „to impro­ve huma­ni­ta­ri­an con­di­ti­ons insi­de Syria“ are to be under­ta­ken to „allow for the local popu­la­ti­on and refu­gees to live in are­as which will be more safe“. This long kept wish of Erdo­gan, to keep pro­tec­tion app­li­cants stuck in the war zone, does not only make a mocke­ry of the noti­on of pro­tec­tion of refu­gees but also means kow­towing to the dis­astrous for­eign poli­cy of the aut­ho­ri­ta­ri­an pre­si­dent. The mee­ting of the Euro­pean heads of sta­te or government con­firms all mis­gi­vings: All signs point to repul­si­on, the ero­si­on of the right of asyl­um is in full swing. On the 17th and 18th of March the Euro­pean tra­ge­dy will enter its next phase.