UN expresses concerns over EU refugee plan with Turkey

UN expresses legal concerns over EU refugee plan with Turkey, warns collective expulsion of foreigners break international law

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

UNHCR's Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Refugee Crisis in Europe Vincent Cochetel attends a news briefing at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, March 8, 2016

The European Union’s agreement with Turkey to return the refugees arriving to Greece back to Turkey, could break international law, UNHCR's European director Vincent Cochetel said on Tuesday.

In an attempt to ease the refugee flow, for every Syrian refugee turned back, one Syrian will be resettled to Europe, however, the UN is concerned about human rights violations.

"Collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights. An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law," Cochetel told a regular UN briefing.

"It may lead to a fragmentation of the route. As long as the conflict is not solved, it's a myth to believe that the people will not try to leave. It may dissuade some people from leaving through that route, but it won't dissuade everybody," he added.

At a summit on Monday, Turkey proposed to help the European Union control the influx of refugees with a plan that included faster membership talks, increased funding and speeding up proposed visa-free travel for its citizens.

Among the actions listed, Turkey proposed to take back refugees from the Greek islands, including Syrian refugees, as well as those intercepted in its territorial waters. 

Leaders from the 28-nation bloc requested detailed work by officials in order to reach an ambitious package deal with Turkey for the summit scheduled on March 17-18.

Just over a million people have fled war in the Middle East and travelled to the EU in 2015, most taking a dangerous sea voyage from Turkey to Greece and heading north through the Balkans.

TRTWorld and agencies