World Bulletin / News Desk
The head of the UN refugee agency on Tuesday said he was "deeply concerned" by a proposed deal between the EU and Ankara to curb the refugee crisis that would involve people being sent back to Turkey.
"As a first reaction I'm deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law," UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament.
Lawmakers at the parliament in Strasbourg, France, applauded after he made the comment.
At a summit in Brussels on Monday, European Union leaders in principle backed a Turkish proposal to take back all illegal refugees landing on the overstretched Greek islands.
Turkey suggested a one-for-one deal under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece, in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats for Europe.
Turkey is the main launching point for the more than one million refugees who have made the dangerous crossing to Europe since the start of 2015. It is home to 2.7 million refugees from the war in Syria, more than any other country.
But Grandi said the plan, which EU leaders hope to agree formally at a summit next week, did not offer sufficient guarantees under international law.
He said refugees should only be returned to a country if it could be proved that their asylum application would be properly processed and that they would "enjoy asylum in accordance with accepted international standards and have full access to education, work, health care and if necessary social assistance."
He also called for refugees to be screened before being sent away from Greece "to identify highly at-risk categories that may not be appropriate for return even if the above conditions are met."
Grandi appealed to the international community to share Turkey's burden "more widely", and urged better ways of encouraging refugees not to risk their lives.
"The UNHCR has been calling on states to increase different legal routes for Syrian refugees so they do not have to resort to people smugglers and to dangerous journeys," he said.
The EU insisted the deal would comply with international laws on the treatment of refugees.
"The details that will be hammered out between now and the March European Council (summit) will obviously be in full compliance with both European and international law," European Commission spokesman Alex Winterstein told reporters.
"There is now a very important understanding of principle, details will now be discussed, and you can be sure that the agreement that will come at the end of it will comply with both European and international law."Last Mod: 08 Mart 2016, 14:07