Ankara ac­cused of forcibly repa­tri­at­ing at-risk Afghans

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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