– Amnesty International slammed the EU-Turkey Summit where sides shared an outline for a final agreement to tackle refugee crisis, urging that the deal is a "death blow to the right to seek asylum".
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker have shared a proposal that for every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, a Syrian will be settled within the EU.
According to Amnesty International, this plan is "wrought with moral and legal flaws".
"The persistent preoccupation with shipping people back to Turkey instead of making unconditional efforts on resettlement and offering other safe and legal ways to Europe shows an alarmingly short-sighted and inhumane attitude to handling this crisis" said an Amnesty statement after the EU-Turkey summit held in Brussels, on March 7.
“EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world's most vulnerable people. The idea of bartering refugees for refugees is not only dangerously dehumanising, but also offers no sustainable long term solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis” said Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International's European Institutions Office.
Amnesty International strongly contested the concept of a "safe third country" after EU leaders said the legality of the proposal would be possible once Turkey is designated as a "safe country".
The concept "undermines the individual right to have asylum claims fully and fairly processed" the statement said, urging that this may result in individuals being "subsequently deported to their country of origin". The proposal violates "principle of non-refoulement" it added.
"In the case of Turkey in particular, there is huge cause for concern given the current situation and treatment of migrants and refugees" said Amnesty's Iverna McGowan.
“Turkey has forcibly returned refugees to Syria and many refugees in the country live in desperate conditions without adequate housing. Hundreds of thousands of refugee children cannot access formal education. By no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country' that the EU can cozily outsource its obligations to” she said.
"Although it was claimed that those needing international protection that are not Syrian would not be returned to Turkey, it has not been made clear how those individual rights could be guaranteed in the context of a system of mass returns. The reality is that not all asylum seekers are coming from Syria, and Turkey does not have a fully functioning asylum system" she also urged.
Having defined the proposal as a "mockery" of the EU's obligation to provide access to asylum at its borders, McGowan also reiterated “Iraqi and Afghan nationals, along with Syrians, make up around 90 percent of arrivals to Greece".
"Sending them back to Turkey knowing their strong claim to international protection will most likely never be heard reveals EU claims to respect refugees' human rights as hollow words” McGowan stressed.
"It was also stated by President Tusk that the Western Balkans route would be closed." McGowan reiterated.
"Closure of this route would lead to thousands of vulnerable people being left in the cold with no clear plan on how their urgent humanitarian needs and rights to international protection would be dealt with" she added.
Amnesty called on the European Union and the international community as a whole to "urgently step up their commitment to solving this crisis, both in terms of humanitarian and other financial assistance and by resettling far greater numbers of refugees".