Turkey not safe for refugees, rights groups tell Greece

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Dozens of human rights groups on Monday criticized Greece’s decision to designate Turkey a “safe” country to readmit would-be refugees who have been denied asylum.

“In Turkey, people seeking asylum from non-European countries are not granted international protection per the 1951 Refugee Convention,” said the groups including the Greek chapter of Doctors Without Borders, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and several organizations that support women.

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In a joint statement, the 40 organizations also noted that Turkey in March “announced it would withdraw from the Istanbul Convention,” and will thus not be protecting victims of gender-based violence.

They added: “Multiple reports over recent years warn of the refoulement of refugees from Turkey, even to war zones in Syria.”

Greece’s migration ministry last week adopted a decree designating Turkey a safe country for asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia.

“They are not in danger because of their religion, their nationality, their political opinions, or inclusion in a social group, and can seek asylum in Turkey rather than in Greece,” the ministry said.

Athens wants to speed up repatriations to its eastern neighbor.

For the past 15 months, Turkey has refused to readmit 1,453 refugees that Greek authorities wanted to send back.

Forty seven percent of the asylum seekers in Greek island camps are Afghans, 15 percent are Syrians, and nine percent are from Somalia, according to the UN refugee agency.

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