EU-Turkey deal: EU must learn from mistakes and ensure an organised and compassionate response to refugee crisis, warn Labour MEPs

With the controversial EU-Turkey migration deal coming into force today, Labour MEPs have warned that the European Union must learn from past mistakes and ensure an organised and compassionate response to the refugee crisis.

Labour MEPs are also pressing the European Commission and national governments to make sure the deal complies with international law and international asylum standards.

The deal sees Turkey receive financial aid and political concessions in return for taking back all migrants travelling to Greece, and for every Syrian refugee sent back, another Syrian will be resettled in the EU directly from refugee camps in Turkey.

Claude Moraes MEP, chair of the European Parliament civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE) committee, said:

“With returns to Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal beginning today, it is essential the EU does not simply create push-backs without upholding resettlement pledges. Failure to do so will simply result in smugglers pushing migrants through dangerous routes across the Mediterranean and the Aegean to reach the EU.

“This week, I will chair an urgent meeting of the LIBE committee with the European Commission in order to ensure key guarantees in the deal are followed through. Failure to do so will exacerbate human rights concerns of the EU-Turkey deal in the median and long term, as well as enhance smuggling networks.

“As spring approaches, it is vital the EU learns from mistakes made last year by ensuring an organised and compassionate response to the refugee crisis.”

Mr Moraes added:

“The events in Greece in the last few days have drawn attention to the immediate organisational concerns with regards to processing the thousands of asylum-seekers and refugees in Greece – national government urgently need to uphold their responsibilities by providing the necessary support for Greece to ensure key safeguards to protect human rights and the right to asylum are met.

“On the issue of resettlement in the EU-Turkey deal, Labour MEPs welcome the fact ministers are finally showing a political will to enhance safer and legal routes to the EU.

“The figure is capped at 72,000, however, given the painfully slow process to relocate 160,000 people in clear need of international protection from Greece and Italy, Labour MEPs are leading calls for more assurances from EU countries to quickly implement and uphold resettlement commitments.”

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson in the European Parliament, said:

“We should remain profoundly worried that the European Union must not be implicated in any breach of the law of international asylum, in a situation where the UN refugee agency has expressed concern about the “serious gaps” in international protection and where major humanitarian agencies say they have been forced to suspend their assistance in the detention facilities in the Greek islands.

“The returnees are reported to be from Afghanistan where they may be under threat from the Taliban, and from Iraq where they may be threatened by ISIS, so the key questions are: Will they be kept safe in Turkey and how can Europe be sure their lives will be protected? And is the EU respecting the major principle of international asylum law, which puts the protection of human life above any other political consideration?

“There will be no adequate response to the refugee crisis without working to resolve conflict in the countries from which people are fleeing – and that should be the first priority for Europe today.”