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.
Why is the World Humanitarian Summit happening now?https://t.co/4GiTmalZfM— TRT World (@trtworld) May 24, 2016
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.
Attending the World Humanitarian Summit, Istanbul, Turkey. pic.twitter.com/IM0FQFVPCZ— William Samoei Ruto (@WilliamsRuto) May 23, 2016
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.
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.
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.