UK's refugee plan with Turkey collapses: 'Turkey not a safe country'

The British government's plan to send refugees to Turkey has collapsed following a report by the Home Office stating that Turkey is not a safe country for returning migrants due to human rights concerns.

Publication: 02.02.2024 - 14:58
UK's refugee plan with Turkey collapses: 'Turkey not a safe country'
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In 2019, 3,000 Turkish citizens, the third-largest group to enter the UK illegally, marked a 162% increase from the previous year. The increase prompted the British government, under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, to consider a migration return agreement with Ankara.

However, the Home Office's review described Turkey as a state "not generally meeting the criteria for being safe," highlighting the treatment of political opponents, including members or those labeled as HDP, PKK, FETÖ, as a significant concern.

The report criticized Turkey's "overzealous" application of anti-terrorism laws and expressed worries about the independence of the judiciary and fair trials in political cases. Concerns over Turkey's compliance with the European Court of Human Rights' adverse decisions were also mentioned, raising questions about the country's commitment to the rule of law.

Despite Sunak's intentions to mirror the migration agreement with Albania, opposition exists due to concerns that such an agreement would violate international law. The attractive position of Turkey, on the EU's border with millions of refugees, is seen as a potential target for human traffickers.

The Times highlighted hesitations about Turkey's willingness to accept an agreement that could result in the return of thousands of migrants to a country already hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees and 320,000 from other war-torn regions.

The UK and Turkey have agreed to share intelligence on human trafficking gangs manufacturing small boats used for Channel crossings, as revealed by The Times.

The Home Office emphasized that the return agreement is part of a broader package of measures with Turkey aimed at combating illegal migration. Officials are evaluating whether a formal agreement can protect political opponents from persecution upon return, similar to the UK's agreement with Rwanda.

The Home Office suggests a "spectrum" of safe countries, implying that returns could be assessed on a case-by-case basis to avoid deporting those facing persecution.

Sources indicate a reluctance to push for a return agreement that might jeopardize the "beneficial cooperation and valuable relationship" in combating criminal gangs, including human traffickers.

This partnership allows for enhanced cooperation in joint operations to dismantle crime syndicates facilitating illegal migrant journeys in Europe, with the UK's National Crime Agency planning to send more officers to Turkey.

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