Turkey bans qualified Syrians from leaving under EU refugee deal – report

© Jamal Saidi
European officials are accusing Ankara of foul play within the EU-Turkey refugee deal, claiming that Ankara is not allowing qualified Syrian refugees to leave the country.

Top EU officials have expressed anger at Turkey’s selective approach to sending Syrian refugees – currently living in the country – to Europe, according to Spiegel magazine.

They insist that most refugees coming from Turkey under the “one in, one out” deal are people with “severe illnesses” and a “low educational background,” stressing that it is Turkish officials who are exclusively in charge of selecting candidates for leaving for the EU.

The hasty deal between the EU and Turkey includes a controversial refugee exchange scheme. Under the plan, Syrian refugees on the Greek islands are being returned to Turkey, while EU countries are taking asylum seekers currently living in the country.

At an internal EU meeting, a representative of Luxembourg said that the list of departing refugees proposed by Turkey overwhelmingly “contained [people] with serious medical cases or refugees with very low education.” The same tendency was reported by German Deputy Interior Minister Ole Schröder to the corresponding committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of the parliament, according to Spiegel.

During the same meeting, representatives of Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg reportedly told the assembly that over the past weeks Turkish authorities have repeatedly been rejecting exit applications filed by Syrian well-trained engineers, doctors and other professionals, who could successfully integrate into European societies.

Under the controversial migrant deal, Brussels has given Ankara exclusive rights to select refugees permitted to leave the country and re-settle into the EU. Previously, the UNHCR, which was in charge of this procedure, has been “officially informed” by Turkish authorities that Syrian academics will “no longer be allowed to travel to Turkey,” Spiegel wrote.

UN officials and rights groups have criticized the deal pointing out that deporting migrants from Europe en masse contradicts international regulations. Serious concerns also arise from fear that it could leave Syrian refugees unprotected in Turkey, and at risk of being sent back to a war zone they have escaped from.

Turkey itself is subject to international criticism for systematic human rights violations, including the ongoing crackdown on Kurds and suppressing media freedoms, undermining Brussels’ assurances that it could be a safe haven for those deported from Europe.

Amnesty International Europe’s director, John Dalhuisen, previously told The Guardian: “If it is applied in its absolute sense, then the number of refugees that Europe would take would depend on the number of refugees prepared to risk their lives through other means – and that is staring at a moral abyss.”

Meanwhile in Germany - which championed the Turkey pact and has taken in over 1.1 million refugees –56 percent of people described the deal as “rather bad,” compared to 39 percent rating it “rather good,” according to April’s poll by ARD Deutschlandtrend.

Notably, only 17 percent said Turkey could be a trustworthy partner, while 79 percent said it could not. In the meantime, France, the UK, the US, Greece and Russia are trusted more, the poll data showed.