Ankara accused of forcibly repatriating at-risk Afghans
The EU-Turkey refugee deal has come in for sharp criticism already, and now Amnesty International has accused Turkish authorities of flouting international asylum law by forcibly repatriating Afghans, according to EurActiv Germany.
NGOs and aid organisations are pulling out of Greece in protest against the deal, the UN’s refugee agency is ceasing its operations in the country’s so-called hotspots, and even the EU’s own border agency, Frontex, has criticised the implementation of the plan.
The agreement, signed by the 28 member states and Turkey on March 18, means that people arriving in the EU who are not entitled to asylum will be sent back to Turkey, which has been confirmed as a “safe third country”. Human rights activists and politicians have made their concerns about the deal well-known.
Now, Amnesty International (AI) has denounced Ankara for allegedly returning 30 Afghan asylum seekers, illegally, to their homeland.
According to AI, “the ink wasn’t even dry” on the brokered-deal when Turkish authorities repatriated 30 Afghan nationals to Kabul, without granting them access to asylum procedures, and despite there being genuine concerns for their safety because of the Taliban.
The group of asylum seekers included women and children; they were put on a plane from Istanbul to Kabul, which briefly stopped in Ankara. They had tried to cross the Aegean, but were intercepted by the Turkish coastguard and held in a camp in Izmir, in Western Turkey, before being put on the Afghanistan-bound flight on 18 March.
Turkish authorities confirmed that 27 Afghan nationals had been returned, voluntarily, to Afghanistan and that none had wanted to submit an asylum application in Turkey. AI accused Turkish authorities of forcing people to sign documents giving their consent to be returned to Afghanistan. Many were allegedly made to provide their fingerprints.
Amnesty reported on its website that it had been in contact with one of the people returned to Afghanistan, who provided photographic evidence of his boarding pass.
Forcible repatriation of refugees without giving due examination to their asylum claims constitutes a serious breach of international and European laws. Whether the EU will pursue this matter remains unclear though.
A leaked Brussels document revealed last week that talks have been had over the proposal of removing tens of thousands of failed Afghan asylum seekers, using threats to reduce aid and trade incentives if Kabul’s “difficult” government does not agree to the deal.
One of the main criticisms that human rights organisations had of the EU-Turkey deal was that it could lead to mass-deportations of people, something Brussels moved quickly to refute.