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UN expresses ‘deep concern’ over EU-Turkey migrant deal

John MacDougall, AFP | UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel give a joint press conference in Berlin, on March 8, 2016
4 min

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN's refugee chief expressed concern on Tuesday over a draft deal between the European Union and Turkey aimed at resolving the migrant crisis.


The 28-nation bloc has been deeply divided over how to deal with the influx of people seeking safety and a better life after fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq.

"Extreme right-wing and nationalistic political parties are inflaming the situation where we need to be seeking solutions, harmonious solutions based on shared responsibilities," Ban said during a visit to Berlin on Tuesday.

Speaking after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the UN chief also said he was "deeply worried by growing anti-migrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and by violent attacks against these communities".

Ban said the European Union "can do much more" to resolve the migrant crisis.

The head of the UN refugee agency said he was also "deeply concerned" by a proposed deal between the EU and Ankara that would involve people being sent back to Turkey.

"As a first reaction I'm deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament.

Lawmakers at the parliament in Strasbourg, France, applauded after he made the comment.

At a summit in Brussels on Monday, European Union leaders in principle backed a Turkish proposal to take back all illegal migrants landing on the overstretched Greek islands.

Turkey suggested a one-for-one deal under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats bound for Europe.


'Insufficient guarantees'

Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 1 million migrants who have made the dangerous crossing to Europe since the start of 2015. It is home to 2.7 million refugees from the war in Syria, more than any other country.

But Grandi said the plan – which EU leaders hope to agree formally at a summit next week – offered insufficient guarantees under international law.

He said refugees should only be returned to a country if it could be proved that their asylum applications would be properly processed, and that they would "enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards and have full access to education, work, health care and, if necessary, social assistance".

He also called for refugees to be screened before being sent away from Greece "to identify highly at-risk categories that may not be appropriate for return, even if the above conditions are met".

Grandi appealed to the international community to share Turkey's burden "more widely" and urged finding better ways to encourage refugees not to risk their lives crossing to Europe.

"The UNHCR has been calling on [EU] states to increase different legal routes for Syrian refugees so they do not have to resort to people smugglers and to dangerous journeys," he said.

The EU has insisted that the deal would comply with international laws on the treatment of refugees.

"The details that will be hammered out between now and the March European Council [summit] will obviously be in full compliance with both European and international law," European Commission spokesman Alex Winterstein told reporters.

"There is now a very important understanding of principle, details will now be discussed, and you can be sure that the agreement that will come at the end of it will comply with both European and international law."

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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