World Refugee Day 2013: EU-Turkey Agreement Puts Refugee and Migrant Rights on the Line

Migration and Asylum, Policy Brief, Readmission Agreement, Turkey

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Read our policy brief here (also available in Turkish)

Marking the World Refugee Day, and in the midst of the current upheavals in Turkey, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) says in a policy brief published today that the soon to be concluded readmission agreement between Turkey and the EU would fail to protect the rights of both regular and irregular migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

This policy brief calls on EU and Turkish decision-makers to put the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at the heart of the negotiation process and consult civil society in both Turkey and the EU Member States throughout.

EMHRN recalls that despite reassurances by EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, on 21 June 2012[1] that the returning of 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 in relevant Member States (such as Greece and Italy)  has led to  migrants and asylum seekers being held in detention centres under inhumane living and hygiene conditions, refused the right to request asylum, and be deported to countries where the suffer abuse.

While Turkey has made a very positive step in adopting a new law on Foreigners and International Protection which will in many ways be in line with international standards, it will take several years for its full implementation.  Until then, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers will still be at risk of arbitrary detention or deportation.

The EMHRN policy brief concludes that the EU should refrain from concluding any readmission agreement until this law is fully implemented and Turkey complies to with the international human rights norms.  Moreover, the implementation of any readmission agreement must be closely monitored and should not serve as a tool to curtail the rights of migrants or asylum seekers both in the EU and its partner countries.

EMHRN recalls that the EU has already concluded and is in the process of negotiating similar agreements with a number of third countries as a part of the process of externalisation of migration control. So far, the EU has signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements with ten countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia while the negotiation with Azerbaijan and negotiating mandates are in place for Belarus.

What is a Readmission Agreement?

EU-led readmission agreements seek to strengthen border control and guarantee the return of undocumented migrants to their country of origin in order to sustain internal movement within its Member States. While the negotiation process takes place at a supranational level, the actual implementation remains in the hands of its member states making the monitoring and potential abuses difficult to address.

Why is Monitoring the Readmission Agreement with Turkey Essential?

Turkey’s importance as a transit country for a large volume of irregular immigrants and asylum seekers makes it all the more necessary that the implementation of the readmission agreement will be monitored by proper mechanisms, including national and international NGOs, that will safeguard the human rights principles and the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in particular.