European Agreement to Return Refugees to Turkey Threatens the Rights of Refugees
New York City – Human Rights First today warned that the European Union’s new agreement to return refugees to Turkey threatens the rights of vulnerable refugees who are fleeing violence in search of safety.
“Returning refugees to Turkey, a country that is blocking Syrian refugees from fleeing across its border, is anathema to the commitments that European states made in the wake of World War II to protect the persecuted. The last thing Europe should be doing at this time is turning its back on obligations to protect refugees,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “Europe is more than capable of managing these challenges without resorting to strategies that violate refugee protection and human rights law.”
European leaders today reached an agreement with Turkey that is aimed at preventing refugees and migrants from reaching Europe’s shores. Under the agreement, the E.U. will resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every migrant or refugee who is returned from Greece, and will double its humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The resettlement program is limited to 72,000 Syrian refugees. The effort, which is aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants to Greece would effectively deny many refugees the right to seek asylum.
A recent Human Right First report found that conditions for Syrian refugees are deteriorating in front-line border states including Turkey. The report details the closure of Turkey’s borders and its refusal to allow Syrian refugees to cross to safety. It also describes how the lack of effective regional protection, exacerbated by insufficient assistance and orderly resettlement or visa routes for refugees, is driving many Syrians to embark on dangerous trips to Europe. In Jordan, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey, the large number of refugees is straining critical infrastructures— including water, sanitation, medical care, education and housing, as well as economic and job markets.
The organization warns that to advance U.S. human rights, national security, and foreign policy interests, the United States should launch a global initiative to address the crisis, and significantly increase its own advocacy to champion the rights of refugees, as well as its resettlement and aid commitments.
“Europe’s poor response demonstrates why America needs to step up and champion the rights of refugees by significantly increasing its commitments to address the global refugee crisis through resettlement and support for front-line states,” added Acer.