On 18th and 19th Febru­a­ry, the Heads of the EU Mem­ber Sta­tes will meet in Brussels. In pre­pa­ra­ti­on for this mee­ting, the European Com­mis­si­on has published docu­ments that pro­vi­de the Heads of Sta­tes with argu­ments their decisi­ons of the sum­mit will be groun­ding on (Sta­te of Play of Imple­men­ta­ti­on of the European Agen­da on Migra­ti­on, Commis­si­on Recom­men­da­ti­on addres­sed to Greece and EU-Tur­key Joint Action Plan – Imple­men­ta­ti­on Report).

The Com­mis­si­on advo­ca­tes the resump­ti­on of Dub­lin trans­fers to Greece and the decla­ra­ti­on of Tur­key as a “safe third coun­try” for refu­gees and pro­tec­tion see­kers. PRO ASYL accu­ses the Com­mis­si­on to be in deni­al of the rea­li­ties in Greece and Tur­key. “Wit­hout any regard for con­se­quen­ces, the rea­li­ty on the ground is sug­ar­coated down to poli­ti­cal­ly desi­red results,” says Gün­ter Burk­hardt, direc­tor of PRO ASYL.

PRO ASYL still obser­ves an utter lack of a func­tio­n­ing pro­tec­tion and recep­ti­on sys­tem in Greece con­forming to human rights stan­dards. At the same time, thousands of refu­gees arri­ve in Greece – accord­ing to UNHCR, the­re were more than 65.000 new arri­vals in Janu­a­ry 2016 alo­ne. And yet the Com­mis­si­on calls for the resump­ti­on of Dub­lin trans­fers to Greece: “Greece should the­re­fo­re as a mat­ter of urgen­cy under­ta­ke all the necessa­ry steps to allow a resump­ti­on of Dub­lin trans­fers” (Point 23). The Com­mis­si­on has sent a long list of recom­men­da­ti­ons to the Greek government in order to take steps to achie­ve this. This list focu­ses par­ti­cu­lar­ly on the need for recep­ti­on capa­ci­ties, access to the asyl­um pro­ce­du­re, legal aid and legal reme­di­es. Greece is asked to report on the mea­su­res taken by March. Then the sta­te of play will be reeva­lua­ted.

Nume­rous reports – inclu­ding report at hand by the Com­mis­si­on its­elf – pro­ve that the con­di­ti­ons for pro­tec­tion see­kers in Greece remain deso­la­te. Around 2.000 pro­tec­tion see­kers still reach the Greek Islands on a dai­ly basis. Res­uming trans­fers from other EU Mem­ber Sta­tes to Greece will aggra­va­te the huma­ni­ta­ri­an cri­sis on the ground. Ins­tead of pro­vi­ding asyl­um see­kers with safe and legal pas­sa­ge to other EU Coun­tries, the Com­mis­si­on puts mas­si­ve pres­su­re on Greece.

Tur­key: no safe coun­try for refu­gees

In its com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on on Tur­key, the Com­mis­si­on sets the sta­ge for decla­ring Tur­key as a “safe third coun­try” in order to legi­ti­mi­ze read­mis­si­ons. In doing so, the Com­mis­si­on twists fun­da­men­tal refu­gee laws bey­ond reco­gni­ti­on by say­ing that “the Com­mis­si­on under­li­nes that the con­cept of safe third coun­try as defi­ned in the Asyl­um Pro­ce­du­res Direc­tive requi­res that the pos­si­bi­li­ty exists to recei­ve pro­tec­tion in accordance with the Gene­va Con­ven­ti­on, but does not requi­re that the safe third coun­try has rati­fied that Con­ven­ti­on wit­hout geo­gra­phi­cal reser­va­ti­on” (page 18).

For PRO ASYL it is clear: the alrea­dy pro­ble­ma­tic con­cept of a “safe third coun­try” is thus redu­ced to absur­di­ty. Accord­ing to Arti­cle 38(1)(e) of the Asyl­um Pro­ce­du­res Direc­tive 2013/32/EU, it is cru­ci­al that “the pos­si­bi­li­ty exists to request refu­gee sta­tus and, if found to be a refu­gee, to recei­ve pro­tec­tion in accordance with the Gene­va Con­ven­ti­on”. Howe­ver, the geo­gra­phi­cal reser­va­ti­on

upheld by Tur­key means that only natio­nals of a European sta­te can app­ly for and recei­ve inter­na­tio­nal pro­tec­tion in Tur­key.

Refu­gees in Tur­key risk the vio­la­ti­on of their human rights and even depor­ta­ti­ons to con­flict are­as like Syria and Iraq. Sin­ce the rati­fi­ca­ti­on of the Joint Action Plan by the European Uni­on and the Tur­kish government on 29 Novem­ber 2015, the­re have been reports on arbi­tra­ry arrests of refu­gees and their mal­tre­at­ment wit­hin detenti­on. In Decem­ber, Amnes­ty Inter­na­tio­nal published its report „Europe´s Gate­kee­per. Unlaw­ful detenti­on and depor­ta­ti­on of refu­gees from Tur­key“. Accord­ing to this docu­men­ta­ti­on, Tur­kish offi­ci­als have star­ted inter­cep­t­ing pro­tec­tion see­kers try­ing to tran­sit from Tur­key to Greece sin­ce Sep­tem­ber 2015. Many of the con­cer­ned per­sons are from Syria and Iraq and were brought to the detenti­on cen­ter in Osma­ni­ye and the remo­val cen­ter in Erzu­rum.

Ille­gal depor­ta­ti­ons and read­mis­si­ons back to Syria and Iraq were also docu­men­ted. In Octo­ber 2015, Human Rights Watch inter­view­ed 51 Syri­an refu­gees who had come to Tur­key only recent­ly. The refu­gees descri­bed how they were depor­ted ille­gal­ly to Syria or wit­nessed how others were depor­ted, part­ly by bru­tal force. The­se reports demons­tra­te clear vio­la­ti­on against the pro­hi­bi­ti­on of expul­si­on of the Gene­va Con­ven­ti­on and the European Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights.

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