Legality of EU-Turkey Deal on Refugees Questioned; Groups Call EU’s Deal “Desperate” and “Dehumanizing” to World’s Most Vulnerable People


Major international organizations and media are questioning the legality, morality and functionality of the recently-approved European Union deal with Turkey.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all questioned the legality of the deal under the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees, with its rules on what constitutes safe haven, and the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits mass expulsions.

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler in an official release stated that “We are, however, concerned about any arrangement that involves the blanket return of all individuals from one country to another without sufficiently spelt out refugee protection safeguards in keeping with international obligations.”

Human Rights Watch said the deal threaten human rights and represents “a disturbing disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants,” in a letter to EU heads of state penned by the organization’s executive director Kenneth Roth.

Roth also took aim at the morality of a deal with Turkey, whose President has taken a disturbing turn toward authoritarianism, saying that he is “deeply concerned that in the interests of securing the Joint Action Plan to stem the flow of refugees and migrants, the EU is willing to turn a blind-eye as Turkey’s president cracks down on human rights and dismantles Turkey’s democratic framework.”

Amnesty International was also highly critical of European officials, calling the deal “dehumanizing” to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

“EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The idea of bartering refugees for refugees is not only dangerously dehumanizing, but also offers no sustainable long term solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

International media also slammed the deal with countless editorials appearing to contradict European Commission President Donald Tusk’s assessment that the deal was a historic day for Europe and that refugees and migrants would be treated “with full respect and dignity” according to a Tweet by Tusk after the deal was signed.

“…It would be a grave mistake for the European Union to allow these factors to push it into a questionable deal. European leaders must ensure that the refugee deal with Turkey respects European and international law, as well as the moral values of the European Union,” said The New York Times editorial board.

“Why don’t EU leaders realize that this refugee deal with Turkey is exactly what the people traffickers want?” said the UK’s Independent, adding that “Rounding up people smuggled into Greece and trading them for refugees registered in Turkey is not just unethical, it’s also unworkable.”

London-based writer Kenan Malik also questioned the practicality of the arrangements imposed on refugees in an Al Jazeera opinion piece, stating that “Leave aside the morality, think of the practicalities. Do the EU leaders think that tens of thousands of migrants and refugees will meekly accept their fate and return quietly?”

The EU Observer chided the Europeans for pushing the crisis under the rug.

“Europe’s leaders have been desperately trying to figure out a solution. And this week, after months of negotiation, they stitched together a deal with Turkey – a deal that effectively allows the EU to push the problem far enough away to pretend that it’s not there,” adding that “The commission is now forced to cut deals with an increasingly autocratic Turkish leadership in a desperate effort to save the European Union from itself.”


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