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UN rights chief slams EU-Turkey draft deal on refugees

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein (AFP photo)

The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has criticized a recent draft deal between the European Union and Turkey on refugees, saying the agreement may lead to “illegal” expulsion of people seeking asylum in Europe.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said on Thursday that the deal between Ankara and the EU leaders may lead to "collective and arbitrary expulsions” of refugees, which the UN official described as illegal. 

Zeid, who was delivering his main annual speech to the UN Human Rights Council, also urged the EU to “adopt a much more rights-compliant and humane set of measures” on refugees at the continental body’s imminent summit next week.

“Any returns of people must be in conformity with international human rights standards,” he said.

On Monday, Turkey proposed to take back all refugees who cross into Europe from its soil in return for more money, faster EU membership talks and quicker visa-free travel.

European Union leaders also welcomed the initiative.

The deal has already triggered concerns among rights advocates while governments and international organizations have also blasted it as inhumane.

The UN refugee agency criticized the draft deal on Tuesday, saying such an agreement may violate the refugees’ right to protection under international law. During his speech, Zeid also slammed Turkey’s seizure of opposition Zaman newspaper, saying the move is the latest in series of worrying developments regarding media freedoms and freedom of expression in the country.

Turkish authorities stormed the headquarters of Zaman, Turkey’s most popular daily, on Friday to enforce a court ruling to place the newspaper and its sister outlets under administration.

The move sparked two days of angry protest across Turkey with police using tear gas and water canon to disperse the demonstrators.


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