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Refugees must not be a tool for political pressure in Turkey, says rapporteur

“I am dismayed at the Turkish authorities’ announcement that its readmission agreement with Greece has been suspended, following the release from custody in Greece of Turkish soldiers seeking asylum in Greece. This decision shows that migration deals put refugees at risk of being used as an instrument in political conflicts. I call upon all parties in this conflict to give priority to the interests and rights of the refugees,” said Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC), PACE rapporteur on the human rights impact of the external dimension of European Union asylum and migration policy.

“Although the consequences of the EU-Turkey Agreement for refugees and asylum seekers both in Greece and Turkey are worrisome, Turkey should not use the tragic fate of refugees to put pressure on the Greek authorities in the aftermath of the failed coup in Turkey. The lives of refugees must not be objects for political bargaining,” she emphasised.

“Freezing readmission to Turkey adds to their insecurity and may prolong their degrading reception conditions, which must be avoided. If this decision holds, the Greek Government should grant refugees on the Aegean islands access to adequate reception accommodation on the mainland and examine their asylum claims on the substance.”

In March 2016, faced with the arrival of unprecedented numbers of refugees as a consequence of the armed conflict in Syria, the European Union and Turkey agreed that Turkey would take any necessary measures to prevent irregular migration over land or sea routes from Turkey into the EU. Under the agreement, irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands would be returned to Turkey, and for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the islands another Syrian would be resettled in the EU. In addition, the EU pledged three billion euros for migration management and assistance to refugees in Turkey in 2016-2017, with a further three billion euros in 2018.

Ms Strik’s report is due to be debated at the Assembly’s forthcoming plenary session (25-29 June 2018).