24. März 2016 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Refugee crisis: key aid agencies refuse any role in ‚mass expulsion'“ · Kategorien: Europa, Griechenland, Türkei · Tags: ,

Quelle: The Guardian

UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières say they will not be involved with EU-Turkey deal to send people back from Greece

A triple blow has been dealt to the EU-Turkey migration deal after five leading aid groups refused to work with Brussels on its implementation, a Turkish diplomat ruled out changing Turkish legislation to make the deal more palatable to rights campaigners, and a senior Greek official said nobody knew how the agreement was supposed to work.

The UN refugee agency said it was suspending most of its activities in refugee centres on the Greek islands because they were now being used as detention facilities for people due to be sent back to Turkey.

UNHCR was later joined by Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. All five said they did not want to be involved in the blanket expulsion of refugees because it contravened international law.

The UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said: “UNHCR is not a party to the EU-Turkey deal, nor will we be involved in returns or detention. We will continue to assist the Greek authorities to develop an adequate reception capacity.”

In a separate and stronger statement, Marie Elisabeth Ingres, MSF’s head of mission in Greece, said: “We will not allow our assistance to be instrumentalised for a mass expulsion operation and we refuse to be part of a system that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.”

Over the past year, around 1 million people have crossed the narrow straits between Turkey and Greece to try to claim asylum in Europe. In an attempt to stop this flow, the EU and Turkey reached a deal last week that would see almost all asylum seekers returned to Turkish soil.

To do this, the EU has deemed Turkey a safe country for refugees; a decision strongly contested by rights groups.

Turkey is not a full signatory to the UN refugee convention, and while it has accepted more Syrian refugees than any other country, it has sometimes forcibly returned Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers to their countries of origin. Just hours after the EU deal was signed, Amnesty International reported that 30 Afghan refugees were sent back to Afghanistan – in a sign, Amnesty said, of what could be to come.

“The ink wasn’t even dry on the EU-Turkey deal when several dozen Afghans were forced back to a country where their lives could be in danger,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia director.

Aid groups are also concerned that refugees returned to Turkey will not be given the right to work – a right they are meant to be guaranteed under the terms of the 1951 refugee convention. While a law introduced in January nominally allowed some Syrians to gain legal work, aid groups said they had not yet heard of any Syrian being granted a work permit under the law.

In a further blow to the deal’s integrity, Turkey’s ambassador to the EU said in an interview with the website EU Observer that his government would not change its laws again to allow the EU legal and ethical cover to push ahead with the deal.

“No, no, no, and no,” Selim Yenel was quoted as saying by EU Observer, in response to the idea that Turkey might let EU officials observe its asylum process in action. Yenel argued that Turkey is already a safe country for refugees.

There are severe practical problems with the deal. Greece needs an extra 4,000 asylum officials from the rest of the EU in order to deport such a high number of people. These reinforcements have not yet arrived, and in the meantime the number of refugees in Greece has risen above 50,000.

The UNHCR said it believed Greece did not have the capacity to deal with so many people.

Fleming said: “UNHCR is concerned that the EU-Turkey deal is being implemented before the required safeguards are in place in Greece. At present, Greece does not have sufficient capacity on the islands for assessing asylum claims, nor the proper conditions to accommodate people decently and safely pending an examination of their cases.”

The deputy mayor of Lesbos, the island where most migrants land, said no Greek official knew exactly how the deportation process would work, nor what to do with the refugees while they waited.

When asked by the Guardian if he had received any concrete instructions about how refugees would be processed and returned to Turkey, Giorgos Kazanos said: “No, not yet.”

“Nobody knows. Every five minutes, the orders change. So who knows. Maybe God knows. If you have any communication with God, you can ask him.”

One refugee in Greece set himself alight on Tuesday in frustration at the bureaucratic chaos. He survived after being doused with water and taken to hospital.

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