20:23 GMT26 October 2020
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    Critics of the EU-Turkey migrant deal have exposed the irony of holding the World Humanitarian Summit (May23/4) in Istanbul – where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stands accused of a poor record on human rights and media freedom.

    The World Humanitarian Summit, organized by the United Nations, is being held in Istanbul amid severe criticism of Turkey's record on human rights, his suppression of opposition and independent media and military oppression of the Kurds.

    Under the deal, "irregular migrants" in Greece – those deemed ineligible for asylum – are returned to Turkey – on a one-for-one basis – in exchange for a Syrian refugee being relocated from refugee camps in Syria to EU member states.

    The deal has drawn criticism from humanitarian agencies – including Médecins Sans Frontières and Oxfam – who say the camps where migrants are processed are – in effect – detention centers, which is against international law.

    Moreover, they say Turkey is not a 'safe country' under the Geneva Convention, because its refugee camps are not well enough resourced and that refugees are not being given high enough levels of shelter, health provision and aid.

    Visa-Free Access

    However, the most controversial element of the deal Merkel brokered was for Turks to have visa-free access to the Schengen zone by June 2016 and for Turkey's accession into the EU to be accelerated. 

    These would be granted only if Turkey met 72 conditions that made its laws and regulations consistent with EU principles – particularly on humanitarian issues and freedom of speech.

    Erdogan is refusing calls from the EU to loosen anti-terror laws that he has used against journalists and media companies. Moreover, he has just passed a law lifting immunity for lawmakers in a move critics say will lead to the victimization of opposition politicians.

    Médecins Sans Frontières pulled out of the Istanbul summit before it even began, with Vickie Hawkins, General Director of MSF UK saying:

    "The world is collectively failing the victims of crises. The humanitarian system that vowed to save lives, alleviate suffering and protect human dignity is not prepared to address its shortcomings and improve its response to the most acute needs in the most complex situations."

    Oxfam GB's chief executive, Mark Goldring, said:

    "Rich nations cannot wash their hands of the suffering for which they are partly responsible and [must] do more to take in their fair share of the world’s most vulnerable people."

    "Recent moves such as the EU-Turkey deal and the plans to outsource EU border controls to African countries with dubious human rights records set a dangerous precedent, horse trading the rights of refugees in order to keep them from our doorstep and shirking responsibility for their welfare," Goldring said.


    'Affront to Dignity': Greek Human Rights Group Slams EU-Turkey Deal
    MEPs: EU-Turkey Migrant Deal 'a Huge Error of Judgement'
    Groups Slam EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Over 'Appalling' Migrant Conditions
    migrant crisis, summit, humanitarian crisis, human rights, politics, refugees, visa-free regime, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), European Commission, United Nations, Oxfam, European Union, Angela Merkel, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Istanbul, Ankara, Greece
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