The EU border agency Frontex began returning "irregular migrants" — those refused asylum — from Greece back to Turkey on April 4, in a move that many claim is immoral and violates international law. Critics say Turkey does not have the resources or capability to care for migrants properly and many are in danger of ending up back in war-torn Syria.
"A condition of the deal to allow the return of asylum seekers from Europe was Turkey's commitment to honor all protocols of the Geneva Convention. However, the Turkish Parliament has not yet approved the necessary legislative changes to their domestic laws. This is simply unacceptable," Verhofstadt said.
New research carried out by Amnesty International in Turkey's southern border provinces suggests that Turkish authorities have been rounding up and expelling groups of around 100 Syrian men, women and children to Syria on a near-daily basis since mid-January.
Turkey reports on forced return #refugees to Syria are shocking. EU cannot be an accomplice to violations of international law— Guy Verhofstadt (@GuyVerhofstadt) 1 April 2016
Over three days last week, Researchers gathered multiple testimonies of large-scale returns from Hatay province, confirming a practice that is an open secret in the region. All forced returns to Syria are illegal under Turkish, EU and international law.
"In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day, The large-scale returns of Syrian refugees we have documented highlight the fatal flaws in the EU-Turkey deal. It is a deal that can only be implemented with the hardest of hearts and a blithe disregard for international law," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Director for Europe and Central Asia.
"These allegations are very serious and must be examined by the EU. As long as there are question marks about the safety of Turkey for refugees in need of protection, the returns should stop. We must never sell our soul to Turkey and condone human rights violations, simply because we are unable to deal with our own problems," Verhofstadt said.
Meanwhile, the Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano has said the EU should secure deals with African nations to take back migrants, similar to the Turkey agreement. "Europe was able to find the resources when it was urgent — I am referring to Turkey," he told the Financial Times.
It remains unclear how such a deal could possibly be arranged with North African Nations — particularly in Libya, where the coalition government is still not in control of the whole country.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said: "An asylum seeker should only be returned to a third state, if the responsibility for assessing the particular asylum application in substance is assumed by the third country; the asylum-seeker will be protected from refoulement [the movement of a victim or persecution back to the persecutor]; and if the individual will be able to seek and, if recognized, enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards, and have full and effective access to education, work, health care and, as necessary, social assistance."