Seven Years After EU-Turkey Deal, Refugees in Greece Still Struggle

ATHENS – A 2016 deal aimed at slowing the flood of refugees and migrants to the European Union – before its borders were closed to them – marked its seventh anniversary with rights groups saying their situation has worsened.

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) noted the EU’s border patrol Frontex signed an agreement with Greece to speed the deportation of those rejected for asylum.


It also repeated claims of refugees and migrants being pushed back as they try to reach five Greek islands near Turkey’s coast, which the New Democracy government has rejected, and Turkey unsanctioned for allowing human traffickers to keep sending them.

Under the deal, Turkey is supposed to contain 4.4 million people who went there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, primarily Syria and Afghanistan but also sub-Saharan African and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Turkey is also supposed to take back who aren’t granted asylum, most of them in Greece in detention camps but only a relative handful have been returned and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had threatened to send more to Greece.

A United Nations rapporteur also criticized Greece over pushbacks amid reports that refugees said they were beaten and robbed as well, drawing more fire from human rights groups and activists.

Karl Kopp, Director of European Affairs at PRO ASYL, an ECRE member, said that “The deal is a human rights nightmare. It represents an exit of the EU from international refugee protection.”

He added: “The European Union continues to promote the normalization and expansion of policies like the one represented by the deal, endangering human lives, rule of law and democracy itself.”

He said, “The Greek Part of the agreement is collapsing, the EU reinforces these policies, and refuses to check compliance with EU law. The PRO ASYL & RSA joint complaint lodged last year, still has not been answered,” by the EU.

The groups called for the initiation of infringement procedures against Greece for what they said were systemic violations of international and EU law, due to the arbitrary rejection of asylum applications based on the “safe third country” concept.

That was over Greece declaring Turkey safe for the return of refugees and migrants even as the number of arrivals has fallen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and while it’s waning even more.



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