EU Turkey Readmission Agreement
On 21 June, 2012, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström met the Turkish ambassador in Brussels to officially initial – in other words preliminarily agree on – a readmission agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey. Once the signature and ratification steps are completed, the agreement will allow both parties to return foreign nationals irregularly entering and/or residing on their territories.
In exchange for signing the readmission agreement, the EU has opened up the way for visa liberalisation for Turkish nationals. The conditions under which visa liberalization would finally happen and its timing are still unclear, at the moment constituting a main delay for the ratification of the agreement. However, it is obvious that the prospect of visa free travel to the EU provides a significant incentive for Turkey to sign the readmission agreement.
In this policy brief, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) details how the readmission agreement due to be concluded between the EU and Turkey risks failing to respect the rights of regular and irregular migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The EMHRN thus calls on all parties to safeguard these rights in practice.
EU-led readmission agreements illustrate the European trend on migration and asylum; a trend driven by the will to strengthen external borders in order to sustain internal free movement within. Even if readmission agreements as such are nothing new and have been used as migration control tools by states for decades, what is different about EU-led agreements is that it is now a supranational body that is politically responsible for negotiating these agreements, while EU Member States are responsible for the practical implementation of the readmission procedure. In terms of accountability, the watering down of responsibilities between different actors makes monitoring and effective remedies against abuses potentially difficult to address.
Despite the statement by Malmström that under the agreement, returning foreign nationals to their country of origin will be carried out “in full respect of international law and fundamental rights, ” the implementation of previous agreements between the EU and member states and third countries has so far resulted in substantial violations of the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, on both the European side and the one of the contracting party.
Based on the provisions included in the agreement, current implementation of previous agreements, and conditions in relevant EU states and Turkey for migrants and refugees, a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey at the moment risks to undermine the right to asylum in Europe and spread abuses faced by third country nationals in Turkey. This is particularly the case for those who, despite being eligible for refugee status or the domestic “temporary asylum” status in Turkey, may still face arbitrary detention or deportation. Transparent negotiations and independent monitoring of the agreement’s implementation are vital to minimize risks that migrants and refugees see their rights violated in the framework of a future EU-Turkey readmission agreement. Turkey’s importance as a transit country for a large volume of irregular migrants and asylum seekers makes the potential for these abuses all the more worrying.
Main Recommendations :
• Refrain from concluding any readmission agreement until Turkey’s new law on Foreigners and International Protection is fully implemented and the compliance of Turkey’s migration management practices with international human rights norms is verified by independent reports;
• I f the agreement is implemented before the new law is fully implemented in practice, ensure that asylum seekers have unrestricted access to the UNHCR and all applications for the domestic “temporary asylum” status, including that claims expressed in immigration detention facilities are duly processed and assessed in a fair procedure by Turkish authorities;
• Ensure that the implementation of any such readmission agreement does not pose obstacles, legislatively or in practice, to the right of asylum seekers to submit asylum or protection applications in EU member states;
• Engage in a genuine consultation process with civil society in both Turkey and EU states in the framework of negotiations regarding the implementation of the readmission agreement and allow access to aspects of the agreement which have indirect or direct impact on the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers;
• Put in place a proper monitoring mechanism to ensure an implementation of readmission agreements that is in accordance with international law and, in particular, with human rights principles and the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. To this end, involve national and international NGOs as well as the European Parliament in the independent monitoring of the implementation of procedures.