Rights group urges EU to stop returning Syrians to Turkey


(AP) — Human Rights Watch on Monday urged the EU to evaluate Syrian refugees’ protection claims before returning them to Turkey citing a lack of refugee rights.

It said in a statement released for World Refugee Day that refugees in Turkey lacked access to jobs, education and health care.

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“It is hardly surprising that many are not getting the support they desperately need to maintain livelihoods,” considering Turkey is host to over 2 million Syrian refugees, the group’s Stephanie Gee said.

Gee urged international donors to support Ankara’s efforts to improve basic rights for refugees. In the meantime, she added, the European Asylum Support Office and Greece should consider all asylum applications of Syrians who have come through Turkey on their merits, as they should not be considered inadmissible on the grounds that Turkey is a “safe third country.”

An EU-Turkey agreement allows Greece to return Syrian asylum seekers to Turkey without evaluation of their protection claims on the basis it is a “safe third country.”

HRW said “safe” should mean not just protection from war or prosecution, but should also include the right to work, health care and education.

The deal is part of efforts to stem the tide of migrants to Europe. In exchange for at least 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) and fast-track EU accession talks, Turkey has agreed to take back migrants who reach the shores of Greece after March 20. The bloc, in turn, will take in a Syrian refugee based in Turkey for every Syrian sent back from Greece.

Ankara says it is hosting 3 million refugees, among them 2.75 million Syrians.