Tomorrow, European leaders will meet at an EU Summit where many hope to agree a deal with the Turkish government that seeks to reduce the flow of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
The draft plan will see all illegal migrants landing in Greece sent back to Turkey within 48 hours in return for the resettlement of Syrians living in Turkey in the EU. It is hoped that for every migrant returned to Turkey, one Syrian national will be resettled in Europe.
Under the plan asylum applications will not be processed in Greece even if those landing apply for asylum. Instead a judge will assess each individual to ensure that they are not fleeing persecution in Turkey. Those that are fleeing persecution in Turkey (rather than elsewhere) will be allowed to stay, and all others will be returned to Turkey, including those fleeing the Syrian conflict.
It is hoped that this will discourage people from making the crossing. Although the Turkish coastguard will have little incentive to intercept boats headed for the Greek coastline since the more who cross, the more who will be resettled in Europe.
This draft deal clearly contravenes both international law and EU law.
Under the Geneva Convention signatories (of which all EU member states are) must assess individual asylum claims lodged in their territory.
Under Articles 3 and 8 of EU Directive 2005/85/EC, Member States must appropriately examine all applications for asylum received in their territory(1). In addition, Article 26 of EU Directive 2013/33/EU requires that Member States provide a right of appeal to all applicants against their asylum refusal (2).
By implementing a system that returns those who land in Greece, the EU is ignoring its own laws. This calls into question the binding nature of EU law if it can be disregarded so easily.
It is possible of course that this plan may fall apart under its own illegality before reaching fruition.
1) COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status, URL: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2005:326:0013:0034:EN:PDF
2) DIRECTIVE 2013/33/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast), URL: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013L0033&from=EN