EU leaders must stop political game-playing and ensure safe and legal routes for refugees

A close shot of a label on a towel which has been provided to refugees from Syria who have been sent to Erzurum Deportation Centre in Erzurum Province, eastern Turkey. This centre is part funded by the European Union. ©Amnesty International

Lives and rights are at risk, and solidarity and leadership is needed – not more political game-playing.

Amnesty International

Brussels – 17 December 2015

As European Union (EU) leaders meet in Brussels to discuss a raft of measures in response to the refugee crisis, Amnesty International is calling for leadership and a firm commitment to ensuring safe and legal routes to Europe so people do not have to embark on dangerous and life threatening journeys in search of safety.

While the EU and member states have taken small steps towards examining ways to allow people access to Europe, notably those displaced by the conflict in Syria, there are serious question marks over the impact of certain measures on human rights. One measure in the spotlight is the recommendation of a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme for refugees from Syria who are currently in Turkey.

“EU proposals to provide refugees from Turkey with the possibility to reach Europe are at last a concrete step towards providing safe passage for some people fleeing the war in Syria. However, making this conditional on Turkey’s apparent performance in preventing irregular migration towards the EU will only fuel human rights violations, including illegal detention and forced returns to war-zones,” said Iverna McGowan, Acting Director for Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

“For this scheme to work, the numbers have to be significant and the implementation has to be in respect of human rights and unconditional. Lives and rights are at risk, and solidarity and leadership is needed – not more political game-playing.”

Amnesty International earlier this week released a briefing documenting serious human rights violations by Turkish authorities, which worryingly links those violations to the recent EU-Turkey action plan.
Leaders of the EU member states will discuss the European Commission proposals for the voluntary humanitarian scheme, as well as proposals for a European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG), which were published on 15 December 2015.

For information on Amnesty International’s position on the EBCG, please see Turkey: EU risks complicity in violations as refugees and asylum-seekers locked up and deported.

To read Amnesty International’s recent findings on detention and forced returns by Turkish authorities, please see our Europe’s Gatekeeper report.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Maeve Patterson on +32 (0)2 548 27 73 or +32 (0)483 680 812, or by email at [email protected] ; or Paul Creeney on +32 (0)2 548 27 74, or by email at [email protected]