German NGO slams Turkey’s ‘illegal’ refugee proposal

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu [Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken/Flickr]

As EU leaders struggle to agree on a final action plan with Turkey, Germany’s largest immigration NGO has published a legal opinion today (15 March) questioning the legality of the proposals. EURACTIV Germany reports.

Criticism has come from numerous sources regarding Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s proposals to readmit refugees from Greece.

While German politicians such as Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maizière and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen backed Ankara, and Angela Merkel hailed the proposals as a “breakthrough”, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has “deep concerns”.

Several European politicians, including Luxembourg’s Minister for Migration Jean Asselborn, have called for a legal assessment to be undertaken.

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Now, PRO ASYL, a German organisation that champions the rights of immigrants, has published a legal opinion that claims the plan is illegal, as it is based on the claim that Turkey is a “safe third country”. The NGO’s chief, Günter Burkhardt, is in no doubt that, “Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ within the definitions of EU and international refugee law.”

The NGO’s claim that Turkey is not a safe country is strengthened by the bombing that was carried out in Ankara on Sunday (13 March).

Additionally, Turkey does not respect the so-called principle of non-refoulement, in which it is illegal to return a victim of persecution to the authority of their persecutors. Under Turkish law, refugees can be rejected at the border with no legal backlash.

Just last week, Davutoğlu told journalists that, “non-Syrians, picked up in the Aegean, will be sent back to their homelands”.

Organisations such as Human Rights Watch have denounced the situation. In the middle of 2015, around 25,000 fled the border town of Tal Avyad and broke through a fence after being turned away by Turkish authorities that fired warning shots and made use of water cannon.

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According to PRO ASYL, Turkey is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, as it fails to award Syrian refugees anything more than “limited refugee status”. Therefore, they have fewer rights than recognised refugees and are certainly not entitled to family reunification.

“If the EU makes this deal, then it will be violating its own laws and international laws,” Karl Kopp, speaker from Pro Asyl on European issues and on the board of the European Refugee Council (ECRE), told “That would be a disastrous signal to send.”

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