Amnesty: Refugee wins appeal against return to Turkey

Amnesty comment on Greek appeals committeeAmnesty International report that a refugee has won an appeal against a decision that would have forcibly returned them to Turkey.

A Syrian national who arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos has won an appeal against a decision that would have led to his forcible return to Turkey, underscoring the fundamental flaws in the migration deal agreed in March between the European Union and Turkey, Amnesty International said.

In the first such decision Amnesty International has seen since the deal, an appeals committee in Athens overturned an initial decision considering Turkey a safe third country on the grounds that Turkey does not afford refugees the full protection required under the Refugee Convention. The committee also ruled that Turkey does not guarantee the principle of non-refoulement, which forbids returning someone to a country where he or she is at risk of serious human rights violations.

The BBC add:

A source at the Greek migration ministry said the judges were only deciding whether the individual’s case could be heard in Greece or not …

The migration ministry official said that committees in detention centres on islands did not decide whether migrants were given asylum or not, but only decided whether Greece could examine their claims. In this case, the committee had decided that the Syrian involved would be allowed to go to mainland Greece while their claim was decided, the official said.

Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director Gauri van Gulik says:

“This decision goes to the heart of why the EU-Turkey deal was so deeply flawed to begin with.

“Turkey is not safe for refugees, it does not offer them full protection, and assurances on paper are simply not good enough. We’ve seen the reality on the ground: until Turkey ends all violations against refugees and guarantees them full protection, nobody else should be sent back under this deal. Instead Europe should focus on its part of the deal by accepting refugees for resettlement from Turkey. It should also urgently improve conditions for refugees in Greece.”

The BBC note that “on the same day the judges’ ruling emerged, Greek and EU authorities sent back 51 migrants to Turkey on boats from the islands of Lesbos and Kos”.