22:07 GMT17 June 2021
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    A group of MEPs have called for an end to all migrant relocations to Turkey, arguing that it "clearly cannot be considered a safe country." This comes after thousands of Syrian children were found to be working in Turkish textile factories, placing more pressure on the EU-Turkey migration deal.

    In a letter addressed to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and others, 55 cross-party MEPs say the conditions facing returned migrants and refugees in Turkey are not acceptable.

    "Thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey are living in extreme poverty, outside camps without any kind of socioeconomic support," said Italian lawmaker Barbara Spinelli from the European Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) bloc in the European Parliament.

    "Only 15 per cent of Syrian children in Turkey go to school and additional children are not accepted due to lack of resources."

    ​The lawmakers also raised concerns about child labor, following reports young Syrian children were working in Turkish textile factories for as little as 5 Turkish liras (US$1.50) a day.

    "Thousands of Syrian children aged between 8 and 13 years have been found to be working in textiles factories in Gaziantep and many other Turkish towns," Spinelli said.

    ​"They work in painful conditions, in close contact with a wide range of toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances such as hydrochloric acid. Their bodies show marks of exploitation and severe physical ill-treatment.  

    "The Turkish government cannot protect the rights and the interests of refugees and, more specifically, of refugee children. We call for an end to the return of refugees to Turkey because it clearly cannot be considered a safe country for them," she added.

    Concerns Over 'Safe Third Country' Definition

    The criticism has once again raised ethical questions over the EU-Turkey migration deal and the definition of what constitutes a "safe third country."

    And while the EU declared Turkey as a "safe third country" before signing the migration deal in March, there have been serious questions over the actual conditions facing refugees and migrants in the country and whether Turkey should be considered as a "safe" country.

    ​Given allegations of Turkish breaches of humanitarian law and other crackdowns in relation to the government's action following July's filed coup, critics have argued that the EU-Turkey migration deal is not only unethical, but is in breach of "safe third country" definitions in the Geneva Convention.

    These concerns come amid increased tensions between Turkey and the EU, with fears the migration deal may be scuppered as a result of a disagreement over plans to grant Turkish citizens passport-free travel in the bloc.

    ​Under the migration deal, the EU has agreed to send every migrant and refugee who reaches EU territory without proper legal documentation back to Turkey, with the bloc then accepting a refugee from an existing camp in Turkey on a "one-for-one" basis.


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    safe third country, Geneva Conventions, child labor, abuse, migrants, refugees, EU-Turkey migrant deal, EU-Turkey migration summit, European Commission, European Union, Barbara Spinelli, Federica Mogherini, Frans Timmermans, Europe, Turkey, Middle East
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