The implementation of the EU-Turkey Agreement violates fundamental rights

PRESS RELEASE

On the 30th and 31st of March 2016 a team of lawyers and interpreters from the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) visited the detention center -“ Hot Spot”, located at the former factory “VIAL” in Chalkios of Chios, where they contacted Authorities and Organizations working in the detention center as well as detainees. Right after the visit, GCR published a Press Release, dated April 3, 2016, [1] in which it described the detention of newcomers without prior service of any detention decision, poor detention conditions, insufficient information relating to detainees' rights and the actual inability to access the asylum procedure.

Among the people contacted by the GCR’s team, there were two particularly vulnerable cases in need of international protection (personal information, though available to GCR, is not provided herein). Both mentioned that they had abandoned their countries of originbecause of fear of persecution, in the hope of seeking international protection in the European territory. They also mentioned that they had not received any information on the procedures to be followed with regards to their detention, the likelihood of readmission to Turkey and the possibility of applying for asylum in Greece.  

During our mission in Chios we realised that, in the first three days from the date of the entry into force of the Agreement, the Police registered newcomers without informing them of their right to seek and possibly claim asylum.  As a result, about a thousand people who arrived on the island in the first three days after March 20, 2016, date of the entry into force of the Agreement, were completely unaware of the established situation and of their basic rights. Yet, when some newcomers were informed of their right to seek international protection in Greece and to halt their rapid readmission to Turkey, it was practically impossible for them to exercise the relevant right, due to lack of certain procedures, failure to provide access to the Police or the Asylum Service for expressing their desire to claim asylum and of course due to the absolute chaos that prevailed [2].

 

This “new reality” led to the initiating of the readmission procedure with Turkey for newcomers on 4th April 2016, without first ensuring that all those who wished to apply for asylum were given the opportunity to; a fact constituting a flagrant violation of national, European and international law [3]. Is should be noted that GCR had officially informed the competent Authorities for this emerging situation, the imminent risk of violation of fundamental rights of detainees in case of readmission and had asked them to refrain from any deportation [4].  

By 4th April, 2016, the first day of implementation of the readmission agreement with Turkey, GCR tried to contact the above-mentioned individuals but this was not possible as their cellphones were turned off. A similar effort was made in the following days also with no result.

 

With great concern about their fate, we addressed this issue in a letter under ref. no. 189/ 07-04-2016 to the Chios Police Headquarters requesting official information on whether the said third country nationals had been readmitted. In addition, we also asked for copies of any readmission requests to the Turkish authorities and relevant decisions made. We have not received any official information yet.

 

Then, we began searching for the above-mentioned individuals. Just yesterday, over 20 days since their readmission, we received a phone call from them informing us that they are both held in prison in Turkey in fear of returning them to their countries of origin. They also mentioned that until today they could not call us and that they do not have access to legal assistance [5]. Accordingly, they informed us that they did not even have the opportunity to contact representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.[6]  Both lacked information about their rights regarding detention and their right to have access to the asylum procedure, which both are willing to follow. The only information they had received was at the beginning of their detention and, according to them, if they did not consent to their return they would remain imprisoned. It is worth noting that they were not even aware of where exactly they are being detained.

 

In light of the above, reserving the right to take all available and appropriate legal action, the Greek Council for Refugees:

 

-          Expresses deep concerns regarding the protection granted to people in need of international protection in both Greece and Turkey

-          Highlights that the conclusion of the EU-Turkey Agreement cannot justify the failure of the Greek Authorities to meet obligations laid down in national, European and International legislation

-          Urges the Greek Authorities to cease any similar action to the one reported in this press release, to respect the principle of non-refoulement, the right to asylum and fundamental human rights.

 

The mission to Chios was conducted within the framework of a project entitled Monitoring of Entry Points, Asylum and Reception Conditions and Procedures for Refugees in Greece, supported by the Open Society Initiative for Europe.


[1] Greek Council for Refugees, PRESS RELEASE «Critical Situation on the islands», 03-04-2016, available at:http://www.gcr.gr/index.php/fr/news/press-releases-announcements/item/546-deltio-typou-3-4-2016
[2] GCR Report  Missions to Chios February - March 2016
[3] The Guardian, Refugees in Greece warn of suicides over EU-Turkey deal, 07-04-2016, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/07/refugees-in-greece-warn-of-suicides-over-eu-turkey-deal , Mülteci-Der, Press Release: Readmissions from Greece to Turkey: What Happens After Readmission? http://www.multeci.org.tr/haberdetay.aspx?Id=140, Human Rights Watch, EU/Greece: First Turkey Deportations Riddled With Abuse, 19-04-2016https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/19/eu/greece-first-turkey-deportations-riddled-abuse , as well as The Guardian, Greece may have deported asylum seekers by mistake, says UΝ05-04-2016, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/05/greece-deport-migrants-turkey-united-nations-european-union
[4]
See footnote 1 as well as our Report to the Authorities with Ref. no.  181/01-04-2016
[5] Mülteci-Der, Press Release: Readmissions from Greece to Turkey: What Happens After Readmission?http://www.multeci.org.tr/haberdetay.aspx?Id=140
[6] Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, HRW : First Turkey Deportations Chaotic 19-04-2016, available at: http://www.ert.gr/hrw-chaotikos-o-protos-giros-epanisdochis-metanaston-stin-tourkia/

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