Greece Deems Turkey “safe”, But Refugees Are Not:
The substantive examination of asylum applications is the only safe solution for refugees
With a new Joint Ministerial Decision (JMD) issued on 7 June, the Greek State designates Turkey as a “safe third country” for families, men, women and children of five nationalities seeking international protection in Greece. It is noted that the JMD applies even to those from countries with high recognition rates for international protection, such as Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. This decision reinforces the policy established by the March 2016 EU-Turkey Statement that shifts the responsibility to protect refugees, including unaccompanied children, arriving in Europe to third countries.
For years, the effect of this externalisation policy has been to turn the Greek islands into a place of confinement for thousands of displaced and persecuted people, as authorities prioritised “containing” them on the islands to facilitate their return to third countries. This created places like Moria that became shameful symbols of Europe’s failure to protect refugees. But the solution is not to send displaced individuals to Turkey.
In Turkey, people seeking asylum from non-European countries are not granted international protection per the 1951 Refugee Convention, while in March 2021 Turkey announced it would withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, and will thus not be protecting victims of gender-based violence, who are at an increased risk in case of return from Greece, based on the new JMD.