Every day, European borders and the Mediterranean sea are stained ever more with innocent blood. From January 1 to March 24 of this year, 5311 men, women and children lost their lives in an attempt to reach the European Union to escape war, poverty and find a better future.
We want a Europe of open doors, which should guarantee migrants a secure and legal way of access, without forcing them to risk their lives.
Unfortunately, the EU reacts only in a state of necessity and gives inadequate answers, because it has no common immigration policy. On the other hand, Turkey is holding the trigger of a time bomb: at any time it can open the gates of its refugee camps and pour into Europe three million people.
We contest the content of the agreement between the EU and Turkey, because: a) it is based on the distinction between refugees and irregular migrants, with an utter expulsion from the EU being provided for the latter and with the simultaneous acceptance in Europe of an equal number of refugees from Turkey; and b) it affects 72,000 people(2) only.
We ask the European Union to suspend this controversial agreement and we agree with the doubts expressed by the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees regarding its legality.
On the basis of such an agreement, Greece will declare "inadmissible" the applications for protection submitted by:
Asylum seekers from Syria, according to the wording of Article 33 (1) and (2)(b) of Directive 2013/32/EU, classifying Turkey as "a country of first asylum" ex Art.35 of the same.
Asylum seekers not from Syria, according to the wording of Article 33 (1) and (2)(c) of Dir. 2013/32/EU, giving Turkey the status of "safe third country" pursuant to Art.38.
The presumed legitimacy of the agreement, therefore, appears to be founded on the applicability to Turkey of the status of "country of first asylum" and "safe third country". But we have serious doubts on that matter. In particular:
We believe inapplicable to Turkey the status of "country of first asylum"; in fact, Art. 33 of the Directive 2013/32/EU fixes as a requirement the enjoyment by the asylum seeker of "sufficient protection in that country"3; the UNHCR's meaning of "sufficient" is a protection equivalent to that guaranteed by the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees of 1951. Turkey, conversely, has so far applied this Convention only to asylum seekers from European countries and not to Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans and individuals of other nationalities. If we add to this the cases of violence and forced expulsion committed by the Turkish authorities against people who were fleeing from the conflict in Syria, duly reported by several NGOs4, our doubts turn into dismay.
We cannot turn a deaf ear to the recent report5 by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights about the killing by Turkish border patrols of at least 16 people fleeing the Syrian conflict (including 3 children), shot dead for the mere fact of having tried to enter illegally: it is clear that the Syrian refugees in Turkey do not always enjoy sufficient protection, and therefore to this State cannot be applied the definition of "country of first asylum" per Art.33 (b) of Dir.2013/32/EU.
We believe it objectionable to apply to Turkey the status of "safe third country" for asylum seekers of non-Syrian nationality, since it does not seem to implement all the requirements prescribed to this end by Art. 38 of Dir. 2013/32/EU: considering that Turkey has so far applied at its own discretion the Geneva Convention of 1951 to refugees from European countries only, it will be necessary to ascertain that the authorities in Ankara will provide to asylum applicants protections of a procedural and substantive nature equivalent to those guaranteed by the same Convention, the European Convention of Human Rights, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, all of them existing legal instruments in Europe. Turkish authorities can begin with a fair examination of the asylum applications already submitted, on an individual basis.
We therefore ask:
1. The European institutions and the governments of Member States to immediately suspend all agreements on migration matters recently signed with Turkey, and to radically change the short-sighted and insensitive approach so far shown in the face of the migration emergency. Complex problems require complex solutions: we demand the transformation of the Triton mission into a "European Mare Nostrum", the cessation of the suspensions of Schengen, the establishment of safe and legal entry channels for the tens of thousands of people crowding every day rafts and border posts to fulfill their dream of a better life. We also demand the increase of the European budget's own resources.
2. The European Commission, the European Council President and the current Presidency of the EU we ask, specifically, to work together in order to make the relocation mechanism of incoming migrants throughout the Union's territory practically implementable, extending it also to other categories in addition to those currently considered. The mechanism must be compulsory and shall provide an appropriate system of penalties for the states that do not fulfill their obligation to reception.
3. The European Commission to promote the necessary legislative steps to strengthen the Union's competences in order to create a truly common system of reception and asylum, so as to limit the discretion of the states and to make the judicial power of the Court of Justice stronger.
4. The Chairman and Members of the European Parliament to vote as soon as possible the activation of the control mechanism ex Art. 218 TFEU, which aims to ask the Court of Justice of the European Union for an opinion on the compatibility of the international agreements signed by the Union with the European treaties. For example, doubts arise about the compatibility of the mentioned agreement with Art. 2 of the Treaty on the Union, with the Art.s 18 and 19 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and Art. 4 of the Protocol n. 4 of the ECHR (and several other provisions of the last two texts).
5. The National Deputies, the Presidents of the Regions and the Mayors of municipalities to take a stand against the agreement in question and in favor of a solidarity-minded, multiethnic and federal Europe, the only one that can safely ride through the great challenges of the twenty-first century.
6. The Presidents of the Chambers, of the Regional Councils and of the City Councils to vote in their respective bodies a motion to condemn the EU-Turkey agreement, and to take a stand in favor of an inclusive multiethnic and federal Europe.
7. The Students and citizens to reflect on the agreement and on the urgency of building a federal, multicultural and solidarity-minded Europe, which can guarantee a future of democracy and rights to the citizens of the future, whatever their ethnicity, religion and personal history.
Building a better future for the European Union and the preservation of the dignity of thousands of human beings depend on all of us.
(1) International Organization for Migration, Missing Migrants Project, 2016. Detailed data available at the link:www.missingmigrants.iom.int/mediterranean
(2) Point 2 of EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016, http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/pressreleases/2016/03/18-eu-turkey-statement/
(3) Article 33 b, Directive 2013/32 / EU.
(4) Amnesty International, Turkey: illegal mass returns of Syrian refugees expose fatal flaws in EU-Turkey deal, Press Release, 01/04/2016.
(5) Will Worley, Turkey 'shooting dead' Syrian Refugees as they flee civil war, in The Independent, 31.3.2016