Released 00:01 GMT (01.01 BST) 19 May 2016
Released 00:01 GMT (01.01 BST) 19 May 2016
The high-level European delegation travelling to Turkey on Saturday must address the catalogue of human rights abuses faced by refugees in the country, not sweep them under the carpet, said Amnesty International today.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, will visit Gaziantep in southern Turkey.
In the weeks since the EU-Turkey migration deal was signed, Amnesty International and other organizations have documented refugees being denied entry to Turkey at the Syrian border, being shot at by security forces and being forcibly returned to their country of origin.
“There is no photo-op that can obscure the deep flaws in the EU-Turkey deal. What Angela Merkel really needs to bring back from Turkey are not smiling photos but cast-iron guarantees that the Turkish authorities will stop sending refugees back to their countries of origin and start implementing its asylum laws effectively,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
Turkey illegally returning refugees to Syria
By Conor Fortune, News Writer at Amnesty International
You can’t stop a ship dead in its tracks, but sometimes you can change its course.
And that’s what happened recently in the Aegean Sea in a new twist in the evolving refugee crisis my colleagues from Amnesty International and I were researching on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.
On 5 April, we were on board a night-time ferry from Mytilene, Lesvos, to Chios, when we were informed that our destination had changed because of “the refugee situation”. Hundreds of refugees and migrants were camping out in the open on the main dock in Chios harbour.
Because our ferry – a towering mass of metal the length of two football pitches – posed a serious threat to them, we were diverted mid-voyage and docked at another port an hour’s drive away.
Thousands of refugees and migrants are being held arbitrarily in appalling conditions amid growing uncertainty, fear and despair over their fate under the new EU-Turkey refugee deal, Amnesty International said, after obtaining access to two highly restricted detention centres on the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios.
On 5 and 6 April, an Amnesty International research team were granted access to two closed detention centres, Moria on Lesvos and VIAL on Chios. A total of around 4,200 people are currently detained at the two sites. Most arrived on the Greek islands after the EU-Turkey deal took effect on 20 March. Some of them have been detained for a fortnight or more.
Among the 89 refugees and migrants Amnesty International’s team interviewed, there were a large number of particularly vulnerable people, including pregnant women, babies, small children and people with disabilities, trauma and serious illnesses.
Brussels - Proposed reforms to the European asylum system presented by the European Commission today must serve as an opportunity to achieve a fairer distribution and better conditions for refugees within Europe, said Amnesty International.
“It would be utterly untenable if any proposed reforms were to largely maintain the status quo. Persevering with a system that has stranded 50,000 refugees in Greece in dire conditions is nothing short of madness,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This cannot be yet another missed opportunity to genuinely deal with the challenges refugees arriving in Europe face.”
“It is completely unfair to expect frontline European countries already struggling to deal with this crisis to bear the highest burden, while others fail to pull their weight in supporting both refugees and the countries hosting them.”
Over one million people reached Europe last year in fragile, overcrowded boats.
Why did such a staggering number of refugees and asylum-seekers pay smugglers thousands of dollars to risk their lives? It’s simple: Because they had no other option. With borders slammed shut, few can hope to reach another country safely and legally.
No one should have to gamble their life on a dangerous journey to get the protection they’re entitled to. And governments could quite easily stop this happening.
How? By offering people alternatives.
Canada, for example, has opened its doors to 25,000 Syrian refugees since last November. Every single one reached their new home country in the only obvious way: by plane. They were able to do so because of a solution called resettlement.
Released 00:01 GMT on Friday 1 April 2016
Large-scale forced returns of refugees from Turkey to war-ravaged Syria expose the fatal flaws in a refugee deal signed between Turkey and the European Union earlier this month, Amnesty International revealed today.
New research carried out by the organization in Turkey’s southern border provinces suggests that Turkish authorities have been rounding up and expelling groups of around 100 Syrian men, women and children to Syria on a near-daily basis since mid-January. Over three days last week, Amnesty International researchers gathered multiple testimonies of large-scale returns from Hatay province, confirming a practice that is an open secret in the region.
All forced returns to Syria are illegal under Turkish, EU and international law.
“In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have wilfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
Released 14:00 GMT 23 March 2016Around 30 Afghan asylum-seekers detained, denied access to asylum procedures and forcibly returned to Afghanistan despite fearing Taliban attacks Follows pattern of forcible returns and other abuses against Syrian and other nationals, documented by Amnesty International in December 2015 Returnees being held in notorious EU-funded centre in Turkey
Turkey’s forcible return of around 30 Afghan asylum seekers just hours after the European Union (EU)-Turkey refugee deal came into force shows that implementing the deal would risk refugees’ lives from the word go, Amnesty International said.
The organization has received credible information indicating that Turkey violated European and international law by forcibly returning the asylum-seekers, who fear attacks by the Taliban, to Kabul without granting them access to an asylum procedure.
Posted at 0001hrs GMT 23 March 2016
The combination of grossly inadequate support from the international community and barriers imposed by the government of Jordan are leaving Syrian refugees unable to access health care and other vital services, said Amnesty International in a new report published ahead of a major high-level meeting on responsibility sharing for Syrian refugees.
Living on the margins: Syrian refugees struggle to access health care in Jordan features heart-rending cases of refugees in need of emergency care to treat injuries sustained during the conflict in Syria being turned away at the Jordanian border - leaving some to die as result of their wounds. It also highlights how many Syrian refugees, who live outside refugee camps, are either unable to afford medical care since the Jordanian authorities imposed new fees in November 2014, or lack the necessary documents to be eligible to access health care.
By Salil Shetty (Amnesty International @SalilShetty), Ken Roth (Human Rights Watch @Ken Roth), and Catherine Woollard (ECRE @ecre)
Let’s not confuse desperation for legality when it comes to Europe’s proposed refugee deal with Turkey. No one should be under any illusion - the very principle of international protection for those fleeing war and persecution is at stake.
Every government in Europe will have to declare its hand this week: does it uphold the right to seek asylum, or does it subordinate that right to horse trading with a country that has an inadequate record of respecting it.
This new proposal is only the latest in a dangerous trend. Over the past few months, various European governments have imposed discriminatory border closures and unlawful caps on asylum applications. The result is a deepening humanitarian disaster for thousands of refugees trapped in Greece, a surge in alarmist, vitriolic rhetoric stigmatizing asylum seekers and migrants.
European leaders’ collective ‘double-speak’ fails to hide the myriad of contradictions of the deal sealed between the EU and Turkey on how to handle the refugee crisis, said Amnesty International today.
“The ‘double-speak’ this deal is cloaked in fails to hide the European Union’s dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis, and wilfully ignore its international obligations,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“Promises to respect international and European law appear suspiciously like sugar-coating the cyanide pill that refugee protection in Europe has just been forced to swallow.”
“Guarantees to scrupulously respect international law are incompatible with the touted return to Turkey of all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek islands as of Sunday. Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral, whatever phantom guarantees precede this pre-declared outcome.”
Improvements to last week’s EU-Turkey migration deal do little to hide Europe’s shameful planned mass return of refugees to Turkey, said Amnesty International today after the European Commission published a Communication on how it believes the plan should be taken forward.
“While the emphasis on access to individual asylum assessments for refugees is an improvement on last week’s woeful EU-Turkey migration deal, this must be genuinely meaningful rather than a cosmetic change,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia. “It will not be if Turkey is declared by the same stroke of the pen a safe country of return, because it simply isn’t safe for anyone – including Syrian refugees."
“In reality, the essence of the deal has not changed. These fig-leaf procedures won't hide Europe's guilty conscience if large scale returns of refugees start happening now."
“You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” writes Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet.
On Friday, March 4, 2016, a Turkish court sentenced two Syrian nationals found guilty in the smuggling of 3 year old Alan Kurdi and his family. The photograph of Alan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey became the catalyst for an outpouring of sympathy for Syrian refugees in Canada and beyond. Alan’s father, Abdullah must live with the devastating result of joining his family on a tiny boat in the hope they would all find safety. His wife and two sons, as well as two other people, perished on that journey. Far from abating, the number of refugees attempting dangerous maritime crossings continues to grow.
Refugees are fleeing desperate situations and will do whatever they must to save their lives. Often they have no choice but to turn to smugglers to help them escape.
By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe & Central Asia, Amnesty International. Follow Gauri on Twitter @gaurivangulik
On 5 March 1946, in a small college gym in Missouri, Winston Churchill warned: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
Seventy years after Churchill gave that speech, a new iron curtain is descending across Europe. Made of razor wire, and of failed asylum policies. It can be seen at Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in the Mediterranean and at Idomeni in northern Greece, where this week Macedonian riot police tear-gassed desperate families of refugees trying to cross from Greece.
The old Iron Curtain kept people in, the new one keeps people out.
EU member states have built more than 235km of fences at the EU’s external borders: between Hungary and Serbia, Greece and Turkey, Bulgaria and Turkey, and this week, Austria and Slovenia. Neighbours like Turkey have become Europe’s border guards, pushing migrants and refugees back, sometimes even shooting them.