A Syrian refugee child brings garbage to a depot station on February 19, 2016 in the center of Gaziantep, southern Turkey. (AFP photo)
Human Rights Watch has urged the leaders of the European Union
to get a correct understanding of the desperate situation of refugees at the Turkish-Syrian border and rethink a controversial deal they reached with Turkey for deportation of the asylum seekers.
Officials from the New York-based advocacy group said on Saturday that EU leaders have in fact neglected thousands of refugees trying to escape war in Syria and enter Turkey while they are busy ensuring the implementation of the terms of a deal they reached with Ankara on March 20.
Judith Sunderland, the acting deputy Europe
and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, slammed plans by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and top European Union officials for traveling close to Turkey’s border with Syria, saying the German leader and colleagues will not be able to grasp the real situation of refugees as they are planned to visit a “sanitized” refugee camp.
“Instead of touring a sanitized refugee camp, EU leaders should look over the top of Turkey’s new border wall to see the tens of thousands of war-weary Syrian refugees blocked on the other side,” said Sunderland, urging Merkel and EU officials to “go to the (Turkish) detention center for people who were abusively deported from Greece.”
“That should make them rethink the flawed EU-Turkey deal,” said the rights campaigner, echoing a similar criticism by many organizations and governments on the deal which allows for the deportation to Turkey of refugees who do not qualify for asylum in Greece.
In return for the deportations and other measures, Turkey is bound to receive at least USD 6 billion in aid over the next four years while its long-stalled bid for joining the EU could be accelerated. Among other privileges is the EU’s pledge for granting Turkish citizens the right to visa-free stays for tourism or business.
Ankara has warned that the deal would collapse if the EU fails to fulfill its visa pledges by July.
The trip later in the day to the border city of Gaziantep by Merkel, EU Council President Donald Tusk, EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, also comes at a time when EU’s top brass face huge criticism over the body’s inaction on freedom of speech restrictions in Turkey. Merkel is especially targeted as she decided last week to allow German prosecutors and courts probe into an alleged insult by German satirist Jan Boehmermann against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.