In the frame of a research project coordinated by the University of Utrecht on the impact of the EU-Turkey Statement for refugees in Turkey and Greece a new policy paper was published! This part focuses on the situation for refugees once returned to Turkey:
“This policy brief examines whether asylum seekers readmitted from Greece to Turkey after the EU-Turkey Statement as of April 2016 were able to access effective protection in Turkey thereafter. The EU has long collaborated with countries of origin and transit in the form of migration compacts, readmission agreements and Memoranda of Understanding. The EU-Turkey Statement is different from prior forms of agreements because of the use of the safe-third-country concept. As a result, Greece can reject asylum applications of people who passed through Turkey as being inadmissible and shift the responsibility of merit assessments to Turkey.”
On Thursday, 23rd November 2017, the deportation of two migrants was stopped last minute. The two men from Iran and Afghanistan were held in detention on Lesvos Island. Shortly before they were transported to the harbour of Mytilene to be quietly deported to Turkey via ferry, lawyers and activists managed to intervene and stop the deportation of the two men. Eight other people from Haiti, Tunisia, Afghanistan and Pakistan were however deported and will be detained in Turkey, among them a family with a small child.
For the two cases that were stopped, there were serious doubts about the lawfulness of the deportation practice. Alireza Kamran from Iran is suffering from severe health problems while Tarik Chian from Afghanistan was prevented from exhausting his legal remedies in Greece. The names and cases of the other deportees were not known to the lawyers and activists monitoring the deportation. Therefore the legality of their deportation cannot be assessed but it is doubted that the persons concerned have received sufficient support to challenge second instance rejections.
Via University of Oxford – Turkey was regarded as a safe third country for the purposes of the EU-Turkey Statement and on September 22, 2017, the Greek Council of State approved decisions of earlier Appeals Committees, which declared Turkey a safe third country; thus paving the way for more returns. However, little is known about the reception conditions of the migrants and asylum seekers who have been readmitted to Turkey. To fill this knowledge gap and to achieve a better understanding of the impacts of the Statement, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Migration Law Section conducted research that was funded by the Dutch Council for Refugees.
For 14 days, refugee activist Arash Hampay has refused food. On the Greek island of Lesvos, he sits on the central square of the town Mytilini surrounded by shops, cafés and tourists, presenting a sign stating “Refugees are not Criminals”.
He is exhausted but determined to continue his hunger strike until the end. His open statement leaves no doubt:
“We shall continue our hunger strike until the prisoners in Moria camp are released, regardless of the consequences for us. A life without freedom is worthless and meaningless for us. You must release the refugees or we shall end our lives in front of your eyes and the people’s eyes. We are waiting for you. The people are waiting for you. You must free us or else be responsible for our death. We will keep waiting until the last drop of life falls from our bodies.”
The UNHCR Greece published an updated overview on returns from Greece to Turkey on 21th June. Since April 2016 1.217 persons have been deported to Turkey, almost half of them from Pakistan. Other nationalities include Syrians, Algerians, Bangladeshis and Afghans.