Fortress or Host Europe? – The EU/Turkey deal and its compliance with human rights law
Abstract: In light of what have become known as the European migration crisis, this thesis examines the legality of one of EU’s burden-sharing responses to this perceived threat – the EU/Turkey deal on March 18 2016. For many asylum seekers, the dream of a safe haven in the EU goes through Turkey to the Greek islands, leading to a significant rise in the number of would-be asylum seekers in the EU over the last years. Tragically, many have died making this crossing. For those who made it, the present deal enables their return back to Turkey. The arrangement has been criticized as contrary to the international legal framework, particularly of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, and because it undermines the individual's right to seek asylum. This thesis focuses on an assessment of the current legal framework – primary the Refugee Convention, the ECHR and EU law - to identify the EU member states’ obligations under these rights. From the understandings drawn from this legal assessment, I conclude that international law doesn’t in principle hinder a member state from returning a protection seeker without a substantive examination of his/hers protection claim. I further derive that, for the EU/Turkey deal to be legal, much depends on the protection seekers access to efficient asylum procedures and whether Turkey satisfies the “safe third country” criteria under the Asylum Procedures Directive. An in depth examination of the legal and the de facto situation in Turkey is therefore provided for, asking myself – is Turkey actually safe for return? In sum, the technical content of the EU/Turkey deal does not provide anything that falls short of the international standards examined in this thesis. However, in light of the worrying picture painted of the de facto situation for asylum seekers in Turkey – I doubt it being legal sending someone back there today.
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