Amnesty slams EU Presidency plan to return refugees

BRUSSELS, Jan 28 (KUNA) — A new plan to tackle unprecedented refugee flows to Europe, mooted by the Dutch Presidency of the European Union Thursday, is fundamentally flawed since it would hinge on illegally returning asylum seekers and refugees from Greece to Turkey, the human rights organisation Amnesty International warned.
Plans to label Turkey a “safe third country” in order to ferry back tens of thousands of people from Greece without due process or access to asylum application procedures would blatantly violate both European and international law, it said in a statement.
“No one should be fooled by the humanitarian sheen of this fundamentally flawed proposal. It is political expediency, plain and simple, aimed at stopping the flows of desperate people across the Aegean Sea,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
“The pan-European response to the global refugee crisis has long been in disarray, so solutions are needed, and fast. But there is no excuse for breaking the law and flouting international obligations in the process” he noted.
If the plan goes ahead, as soon as this spring, EU countries would begin considering Turkey a “safe third country”, a designation which would lead to them pushing back all asylum-seekers intercepted on the sea crossing to Greece. In return for Turkey accepting those who are pushed back, a core group of EU countries would voluntarily resettle between 150,000 and 250,000 refugees currently hosted in Turkey.
Amnesty expressed “serious concerns ” about the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey. The country hosts an estimated 2.5 million Syrian refugees and 250,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries including Afghanistan and Iraq. Asylum applications for non-Syrians are rarely processed in practice.
While the full EU Presidency plan has yet to be made public, the Dutch labour party leader Diederik Samsom revealed some details in an interview today with the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.(end)