Safeguard the Rights of Refugees in Turkey!

We, the undersigned organizations working in the area of human rights, express our gravest concerns regarding the recent arrests in Istanbul of over 6,000 migrants and refugees, among whom Syrian refugees. We are alarmed by the the reports and testimonies of deportations to Syria,¹ by the declared intentions of the Turkish government to proceed with deportations and its politically motivated threats to the European Union regarding the hosting of refugees.² We therefore call on the EU and its Member States, in recognition that Turkey is unwilling and unable to provide protection to refugees in line with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of the Refugees, to end all returns to Turkey as a transit or safe country, suspending the EUTurkey Deal from March 2016 and providing protection on European soil to those fleeing war and persecution.

For the past three years, since the adoption of the EU-Turkey Statement in March 2016, our organizations have been repeatedly stating that the EU-Turkey Deal is undermining human rights and Europe’s fundamental principles.³ The essence of the «deal» is for Turkey to accept back every refugee that reaches the Greek Islands from Turkey, in exchange for liberalization of the visa policy on the part of the EU and 6 billion euro in aid to Turkey to use for ensuring proper reception conditions for refugees. The European Commission and many EU Member State governments still present the EU-Turkey Deal as a success, measuiring success only by the drop in numbers of people managing to reach Europe via the Agean sea route. At the same time, refugees are forced by mandatory geographical restriction to live under dangerous, inhuman and degrading conditions on the Greek islands, as found by international organizations and human rights monitoring bodies.4 Thus, tens of thousands of refugees live under deplorable conditions while awaiting for Greek authorities’ decision to grant protection, or refuse it, on the ‘safe country’ ground in respect of Turkey.

Currently, hundreds of Syrians have reportedly been deported from Turkey to Syria following the recent government crackdown on unregistered refugees, while the Turkish authorities cannot guarantee effective access to registration of protection applications. Many of the deportees have reportedly been transported to the TurkeySyria border near Idlib. Syrian refugees and migrants of other nationalities have also been detained by the Turkish authorities in view of removal. Public opinion in Turkey towards Syrian refugees has been hardening since Turkey’s recent local elections,5 which featured prominent anti-Syrian rhetoric, and in the context of Turkey’s ongoing economic crisis.

Following the recent announcement of the Turkish Foreign Minister that the EU-Turkey Deal is suspended unilaterally because Turkey has not received the political exchanges promised by the EU and the subsequent denial of the European Commission, which rushed to assure that the Deal is still being applied, our organizations ask the EU and and/or its Member State governments to:

– announce immediately the suspension of the EU-Turkey Deal
– respect the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with international law and stop all returns to Turkey, from Greece or elsewhere, which amount to chainrefoulement
– provide protection on European soil to those fleeing war and persecution
– provide decent reception conditions in accordance with the EU Reception Conditions Directive
– ensure that refugees are not revictimized by being exploited for political goals

We further ask UN bodies, and the UNHCR in particular, to monitor the returns from Turkey of all persons under temporary protection, including those that are described as voluntary.

EuroMed Rights Network
Center for Legal Aid – Voice in Bulgaria
Greek Refugee Council
Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l’homme (LADDH)
Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Hellenic League for Human Rights
HIAS Greece
Group of lawyers for the rights of migrants and refugees (Greece)
Initiative for the Detainees’ Rights (Greece)
Greek Helsinki Monitor
AMERA International
L’Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH)
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
Human Rights Association (İHD) (Turkey)
Urnammu for Justice & Human Rights
KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism (Cyprus)
Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights- Jordan
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Cyprus STOP Trafficking
Symfiliosi ( Cyprus)
Andalus Institute
Italian Council for Refugees
Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux
l’Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM)
Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) – Greece
Network for Children’s Rights (Greece)

1 See, for instance «As 1,000 Syrians arrested in Turkey, crackdown fears intensify», Al Jazeera, July 29, 2019, and « Mass Deportation Campaign in Istanbul Against Syrians» Harek Act,
2 See « Turkey suspends deal with the EU on migrant réadmission », Euractiv, July 24, 2019,
4 E.g., Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Dunja Mijatović following her visit to Greece from 25 to 29 June 2018, CommDH(2018)24, 6 November 2018 NHCR%20Communication%20Service&utm_campaign=HQ_EN_BriefingNotes_171027
5 See, for example « Anti-refugee sentiments in Turkey at all-time high», InfoMigrants, July 29, 2019,