The top UN official for human rights expressed serious concern [press release] on Thursday over a recent agreement between the EU and Turkey to “stem the flow” of refugees and migrants into Greece and Europe. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated his concern that without assessing each individual case the deal between the EU and Turkey will result in a “collective expulsion.” The provisions agreed upon between the parties call [UN News Centre report] for cases to be processed under the EU’s Asylum Procedures Directive and states that “migrants not applying for asylum or whose application has been found unfounded or inadmissible … will be returned to Turkey.” The UN is concerned that such language could allow children, victims of rape and torture, individuals with a specific sexual orientation or persons with disabilities to be turned away as a categorical rule. Furthermore, there is concern over recent measures that call for the initial detention for all new arrivals. It is a general rule that detention be used as a last resort in such matters. Zeid concluded stating that the issue is manageable if the EU acted on the basis of its well established laws and principles and does not attempt to circumvent international law.
The rights of migrant populations has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issue around the world. Last week, UN experts urged safeguards in the EU-Turkey migrant deal. Earlier in March Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth urged EU leaders to reject [JURIST report] the proposed EU Joint Action Plan with Turkey to handle the influx of migrants due to the “disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.” The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed concerns [JURIST report] over the proposed migrant exchange program between the EU and Turkey, arguing it may violate international law. The Joint Action Plan [text, PDF], was proposed to decrease human smuggling along the shores of southern Europe and to help alleviate the massive influx of refugees hosted by Turkey.