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Five years of EU-Turkey deal: Europe Must Act demands respect for human rights

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

[17.03.2021, 09:15 CET]

For Immediate Release

18 March 2021 marks the fifth anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal, even though Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, spoke of a resumption of the cooperation with Turkey in a press conference last week, the agreement must be considered a failure according to the assessment of all European human rights organisations as well as NGOs working on the Aegean Islands.

On the occasion of this event, Europe Must Act calls for an about-turn on asylum and migration policy: the goal cannot be to allow right-wing populist forces to systematically undermine European values and laws. Policymakers need to fundamentally rethink asylum and migration policy. Further human rights violations must not be encouraged by building new closed camps as is currently happening on the Greek islands. On the contrary, all stakeholders of civil society need to be involved in the policy-making process to ensure a humane reception of migrants in compliance with European and international law.

Matthias Mertens, Advocacy Coordinator from Europe Must Act: “Above all else, the EU-Turkey deal symbolises an approach to migration and asylum that aims to deter, detain and deport refugees who seek asylum in Europe; and a step away from human rights and the Geneva Refugee Convention as the legal basis for European political action.”

Its introduction went hand in hand with a policy that keeps asylum seekers indefinitely in so-called "hotspots", i.e. in the camps on the Aegean islands. Right there, the EU has no way of guaranteeing that the asylum process can be handled humanely and fairly.

Jacob Warn, Field Coordinator from Europe Must Act: “Meanwhile, people in the camps live in hostile conditions - without a minimum of protection from the elements, without education for thousands of children, without adequate health care and in a situation where already traumatised people experience further psychological and physical violence. This unnecessary suffering of people, the everyday, systematic violations of human rights must be recognized as a result of a migration policy that is oriented towards deterrence.”

What the EU-Turkey deal had originally intended, namely to quickly resettle asylum seekers from certain countries and in particular need of protection to EU member states, has failed. After Eastern European countries did not want to meet their obligations - even countries that were originally willing to take in asylum seekers, such as Germany and France, withdrew politically, so that now less than a tenth of people affected have been distributed across EU member states.

Europe Must Act (EMA) is a growing grassroots movement, bringing together volunteers and NGOs to campaign for the humane, dignified and legal reception of refugees in Europe. EMA was established in March 2020 by a group of volunteers on the Greek Aegean islands of Chios and Samos in response to the ever-worsening situation of the hotspot camps. For more information about EMA, please visit

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Photo by Kirsty Evans

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Heike Gumz, Campaign Coordinator, Europe Must Act

+49 178 9150749

Christian Schmidt, Communications Coordinator, Europe Must Act

+49 157 3513 2910


Europe Must Act is a campaign group run by a coalition of NGOs working on the Aegean Islands. Find out more here.


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