Shame on the EU, again…

Leestijd: 3 minuten

The EU persists in shameful behaviour regarding refugees, and we all have been silent witnesses…

Yesterday (december 15, 2015) the Dutch department of Amnesty International reported (translation by Google) on the treatment of refugees in Turkey. The report includes words like detention, deportation and mistreatment. Unfortunately that is no surprise. But more severe is that the EU knowingly closed an agreement that wrongly suggests that Turkey is safe for refugees. Why it isn’t? And why we all should’ve known? That I will explain.

In 1951, during the aftermath of World War II many countries signed the Geneva Convention. In short it says that people fleeing as a result of the things happening during and shortly after WWII were save: they wouldn’t be sent back to an unsafe country. Turkey was one of the countries that signed the convention. Some countries, including The Netherlands, added a reservation. Turkey did as well. The reservation of Turkey was that the convention was only valid for refugees from Europe and their situation could not be better than the situation of Turkish citizens. That’s all.

In 1966 the world discovered (to their astonishment) that there were still wars. And they discovered that these wars still caused people to seek refuge. Of course, these were the sixties, the era of “Peace man”. So it felt kind of unfair that these people weren’t covered in the convention. That’s why they agreed on the 1967 New York Protocol. In short this protocol said that the timelimit of 1951 was off, as wel as any limits on region. From that moment on everyone fearing the powers that be, could be acknowledged as refugee. Turkey was one of the countries that signed the protocol.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, that’s not the whole story. Since Turkey made again two reservations:

  1. Refugees shouldn’t be better of than Turkish citizens;
  2. Turkey would continue to limit the refugee-status to Europeans.

This protocol is still in use. And that’s why refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq in the end don’t have any rights in Turkey and are considered illegal. Based on the protocol, nobody could stop Turkey to detain them or even deport them to their own unsafe country in war. We all agreed on those reservations, didn’t we? But that’s why Turkey isn’t a safe country for refugees, of course.

And that’s also why it is shameful that Europe knowingly made an agreement with Turkey. Because they knew it. Everybody knew it, or could have known. Because everything is online:

  • Convention and Protocol are here (pdf);
  • An overview of ratifications and reservations on the 1951 convention is here (automatic download);
  • And the overview of ratifications and reservations on the 1967 protocol is here (automatic download).

Easy, isn’t it? But as far as I know nobody referenced it. And our European politicians closed they’re eyes and jumped on the opportunity. And that’s shameful!

Epilogue 1: Amnesty International also references mistreatment in detention centers. That’s about the human rights agreement. I didn’t check on that, and for now presume that Turkey signed that without reservations. Making it even more serious.
Epilogue 2: Even though Turkey started detaining and deporting people, they’re still giving shelter to the greatest number of Syrian refugees. But of course the change of policy reported by Amnesty International is something to worry about.
Epilogue 3: On October 17, 2015 Amnesty International warned Angela Merkel that Turkey isn’t safe. Even 1 out of 4 Turkish refugees are granted asylum in the EU.

Photo: Amnesty International Refugee Day Rally 3, CC BY NC Jason (

As I’m not a native speaker, but do value correct English, I’d appreciate any corrections on language. Please type them in the comments box below and I’ll make the appropriate changes.

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