PRO ASYL cate­go­ri­cal­ly oppo­ses plans by the Dut­ch and pos­si­b­ly the Ger­man government to fer­ry asyl­um see­kers from Greece back to Tur­key. “Tur­key is not a safe third coun­try. Through the­se actions, refu­gees’ human rights are effec­tively sus­pen­ded,” says Gün­ter Burk­hardt, PRO ASYL’s mana­ging direc­tor. Tur­key would beco­me “Europe’s refu­gee camp, and the human rights of refu­gees would be ren­de­red inva­lid. The EU bends rea­li­ty to fit its pur­po­ses. It would amount to Europe’s collec­ti­ve with­dra­wal from refu­gee protection.”

The inten­ded ille­gal push­backs of refu­gees from Greece to Tur­key would vio­la­te Euro­pean and inter­na­tio­nal law. The gra­vi­ty of the situa­ti­on in Tur­key is play­ed down, along with the bru­tal con­se­quen­ces for tho­se see­king pro­tec­tion. The human right to asyl­um would effec­tively be suspended.

Asyl­um see­kers who are pushed back to Tur­key face human rights abu­ses and even depor­ta­ti­on to cri­sis are­as such as Syria or Iraq. Sin­ce the EU and the Tur­kish government pas­sed their action plan on Novem­ber 29, 2015, arbi­tra­ry arrests of refu­gees, mistre­at­ment in detenti­on cen­tres and ille­gal depor­ta­ti­ons and refou­le­ment to Syria and Iraq have been docu­men­ted in Tur­key. PRO ASYL asserts that retur­ning asyl­um see­kers to Tur­key amounts to ille­gal rejec­tions that con­tra­ve­ne the 1951 Refu­gee Convention’s princip­le of non-refou­le­ment, as well as Euro­pean and inter­na­tio­nal law.

While Tur­key has rati­fied the Refu­gee Con­ven­ti­on, to date it retains so-cal­led “geo­gra­phi­cal bounda­ries”. This means that only asyl­um see­kers from Euro­pe can be reco­gnis­ed as refu­gees by Tur­key its­elf. Ever­yo­ne else can de fac­to expect no pro­tec­tion, no social sup­port, and only very limi­ted access to the labour mar­ket and health ser­vice. Tur­key, the­re­fo­re, can­not be a “safe third coun­try”, as coun­tries can only be desi­gna­ted as such if the 1951 Refu­gee Con­ven­ti­on is imple­men­ted without restric­tions. Refu­gees who tra­vel to Euro­pe via Tur­key must not be sent back the­re. It fol­lows from this fact alo­ne that it would be unlaw­ful to decla­re Tur­key a safe third country.

Accord­ing to Arti­cle 38 of the Asyl­um Pro­ce­du­res Direc­ti­ve, in a “safe third coun­try” refu­gees must have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to app­ly for reco­gni­ti­on of refu­gee sta­tus and recei­ve pro­tec­tion accord­ing to the 1951 Refu­gee Con­ven­ti­on. While the UNHCR does enga­ge in pro­cee­dings accord­ing to the Refu­gee Con­ven­ti­on in Tur­key, the­se pro­cee­dings do not lead to pro­tec­tion sta­tus for refu­gees by the Tur­kish sta­te. Refu­gees are merely given the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take part in UNHCR’s resett­le­ment pro­gram­me and to be real­lo­ca­ted to ano­t­her sta­te (Arti­cle 62 of the Tur­kish asyl­um law).

Inde­pendent­ly of the legal assess­ment of the situa­ti­on, the past few weeks have also seen a clear inten­si­fi­ca­ti­on of Turkey’s inter­nal poli­ti­cal strug­gles. Tur­key is neit­her a safe coun­try of ori­gin nor a safe third coun­try for tho­se see­king protection.

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