Turkey ‘not safe for refugees’ claim insulting: Cameron
LONDON – Anadolu Agency
AFP photoIt is insulting to suggest Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Cameron was addressing lawmakers in the House of Commons on last week’s refugee deal between Turkey and the European Union, replying to a question from opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“I don’t think it’s right to say Turkey is an unsafe country for Syrian refugees … In fact I think that’s slightly insulting to the Turks who are currently hosting 2.6 million people who have fled Syria,” he said.
“So what is going to happen is those people who don’t apply for asylum will be returned to Turkey immediately. Those who do will go through a rapid process but with all the proper procedures in place, and as the agreement says all irregular migrants will be returned to Turkey because it is a safe country for those refugees,” Cameron added.
He later said Turkey deserved praise for hosting millions of people fleeing the Syrian civil war.
Quoting an Amnesty International report that claimed Turkey was not a safe country for refugees, Corbyn had said “any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal.”
The March 18 agreement will see the opening of a new “chapter,” or policy area, in Turkey’s accession process in exchange for sending back refugees entering Europe via Greece. In exchange for Turkey taking the illegal migrants, EU members will take the same number of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey.
Turkey will also receive a total of 6 billion euros until the end of 2018 to improve living standards for Syrian refugees in the country.
Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. refugee agency said March 21 he will be scrutinizing possible breaches of international law during the rollout of the EU-Turkey deal to stem migrant flows into Europe through Greece.
“The devil of the deal will be in the details of how it is implemented and we need to see what happens in the next few days,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said during a visit to Ottawa.
The aim is to reduce the incentive for migrants to make the perilous trip from Turkey to the Greek islands.
Around 4,000 people, including women and children, have drowned crossing the Aegean Sea in flimsy boats, including 400 this year alone.
Grandi said it must “be done in a manner that safeguards some fundamental [refugee] protection principles,” including not sending anyone back to their country of origin against their will, and in this specific instance determining “whether anybody has reason for fearing being sent back to Turkey.” He also said refugees should not be held in detention, and all have a right to make an asylum bid.
The UNHCR has briefed the European Union and Turkey about their obligations.
“The guarantees that we have laid out are the ones that would make it or not make it consistent with international and European law,” said Grandi, who was appointed UNHCR refugee chief in January.