PACE raises human rights questions over EU-Turkey migrant deal

The EU-Turkey Agreement “raises several serious human rights issues” the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has said, citing doubts as to whether Turkey satisfies the EU’s own strict legal tests for the return of asylum seekers, the Greek asylum system can cope, and EU support for these countries is sufficient.

A day after hearing separate addresses from the President of the European Commission and Turkey’s Prime Minister, an Assembly resolution made a series of specific recommendations to the EU, Turkey and Greece to ensure the deal does not violate European and international legal standards on refugees’ and migrants’ rights. These included a call to halt the return of asylum seekers to Turkey until the legal requirements were clearly satisfied.

“The deal at best strains and at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law,” said rapporteur Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC). “Even on paper, it raises many serious questions of compatibility with basic norms on refugees’ and migrants’ rights. It has so far given every indication of being even more problematic in practice.”

Approving a separate resolution based on a report by Annette Groth (Germany UEL), the Assembly called for international protection for Syrian refugees, either through tailored aid for neighbouring countries or “humanitarian pathways”, such as resettlement and family reunification, that could permit the safe entry of substantial numbers of Syrian refugees.

A third resolution on the situation in the Western Balkans, also based on a report by Senator Strik, said increasingly restrictive border controls had led to a deteriorating humanitarian situation for refugees and migrants. Hungary’s asylum and border policy appears to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, it added.

Practical solidarity through collective action and responsibility-sharing, based on respect for human rights and international law, were the essential conditions for any long-term successful response, the Assembly said.