Why Amnesty has slammed the EU-Turkey refugee deal

Amnesty International has issued a damning report claiming that Turkish security forces have forcefully returned refugees back to Syria multiple times over the last several months, throwing cold water on the already deeply flawed deal between the European Union (EU) and Ankara. On April 1, Amnesty reported that Turkey had expelled hundreds of Syrians since mid-January, referring to it as an “open secret in the region.”

The deal, which was reached last month but only actively implemented from this week, will see refugees – not just Syrians but all others, including Afghans and Iraqis – who have arrived in Greece sent to Turkey. The EU has said it will resettle one Syrian in a member state for every Syrian sent back to Turkey.

This is the first agreement that ostensibly seeks to comprehensively and proactively deal with the worst refugee crisis since World War II, including halting the grotesque – and often deadly – activity that is human smuggling. If the EU fails to investigate Amnesty’s claims, it risks employing a third party to forcefully and illegally deport Syrians back to their war-torn country.

Forcing even one Syrian to return back to their country at this stage would be one of the gravest betrayals of international law

Brooklyn Middleton

Amnesty’s report says Ankara expelled back to Syria at least several young children without their parents, and at least one pregnant woman. This should give EU leaders serious concerns about sending potentially thousands of vulnerable families to Turkey.

The deal will reportedly bolster Ankara financially and diplomatically. The Washington Post reported that it will receive at least $6.6 billion in EU funds, while the parties look set to agree on visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish citizens in the coming months.


Nonetheless, the country’s domestic security continues to deteriorate, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Kurdish factions carrying out mass-casualty attacks in urban centers with increased frequency. Sending large numbers of refugees, especially Syrians, to an increasingly volatile state endangers their lives and risks subjecting them to the type of horror they have fled. Moreover, ISIS may try to exploit the deal and target Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal should not be assessed as merely an imperfect approach to an extremely complicated crisis. It could jeopardize the lives of the very people the international community should be actively seeking to protect. Forcing even one Syrian to return back to their country at this stage would be one of the gravest betrayals of international law.

If EU leaders willfully ignore reports about such practices – and going ahead with these collective deportations would be indicative of that – they may find themselves complicit in such crimes.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50
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