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EU-Turkey refugee plan morally, legally flawed: Amnesty

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)
Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, speaks at the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2016. (AFP photo)

Amnesty International has strongly denounced as “flawed” a draft plan by the European Union (EU) to return refugees from Greece to Turkey, saying it could put vulnerable people at risk. 

Salil Shetty, the secretary general of the UK-based rights organization, on Sunday censured the plan and called on EU member states to take in more people seeking refuge instead. He also questioned the status of Turkey as a safe country for refugees.

"It's flawed, morally and legally," Shetty said in reference to the plan, adding, "They are saying it does not breach EU law because Turkey is a safe country. By what stretch of the imagination is Turkey a safe country for these people?" 

Shetty said he would meet European Council President Donald Tusk and other EU officials this week "to directly express our shock and outrage at what they are coming up with." 

The remarks come days after the European Union and Turkey drafted a proposal to halt the flow of refugees to Europe. Turkey, home to some 2.7 million Syrians who have fled foreign-backed militancy in their country, is the main launching point for many refugees who have made the dangerous crossing to Europe.

As part of the plan the fine details of which are still being hammered out, the EU agreed to Ankara’s proposal to take back all refugees crossing Turkey to Greece.

The proposal has sparked concerns among UN officials and human rights organizations. 

Thousands of refugees have been stranded in Greece as Macedonia has closed its border to prevent the entry of refugees. Macedonia’s move came after Balkan countries closed the refugee route and imposed restrictions on refugee entries.

A child stands next to a fire at the border point between Greece and Macedonia in a makeshift camp on March 13, 2016. (AFP photo)

Turkish officials say the United Nations Refugee Agency, also known as the UNHCR, will be involved in the implementation of the 6-billion-euro (USD 6.7 billion) deal to ensure Turkey complies with the international law in protection of the refugees. 

The UNHCR has, however, voiced concern over the EU-Turkey plan, saying it may lead to “collective and arbitrary expulsions” of refugees, which “are illegal under the international law.”

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