Human rights groups and aid agencies have heavily criticised the new refugee deal agreed by the European Union and Turkey, with Amnesty International Ireland calling it an “historic blow to rights”.


“The double-speak this deal is cloaked in fails to hide the EU’s dogged determination to turn its back on a global refugee crisis, and wilfully ignore its international obligations,” said executive director of the organisation Colm O’Gorman.


“Turkey is not a safe country for refugees and migrants, and any return process predicated on its being so will be flawed, illegal and immoral, whatever phantom guarantees precede this pre-declared outcome.”


He added Amnesty International Ireland was “appalled” that the Republic and other EU member states signed off on the deal.


Oxfam’s migration policy lead Sara Tesorieri said the deal “trades people for concessions” and does not respect “the spirit” of international law.


“EU and Turkish leaders have made an agreement on the migration crisis that not only fails to respect the spirit of international and EU laws, but may amount to trading human beings for political concessions,” she said.


“The cost of European border control cannot continue to be paid with human lives. Oxfam calls on the EU to adopt effective solutions for managing migration, including safe and legal routes for those seeking to enter Europe.


“EU member states need to do their fair share to resettle people in need of international protection. There can be no cap on this fundamental responsibility.”


Médecins Sans Frontières Ireland director Jane-Ann McKenna said it was “obvious” the deal was designed to stop people arriving in the EU.


“It’s obvious that this deal is designed with the single aim of stopping the arrival of people in to the EU,” she said. “The rights and wellbeing of people themselves are not a primary consideration.


“Regardless of the legality of such a deal, we question if forcedly returning people to a country already hosting the highest number of refugees in the world is a responsible strategy.


Today, access to safety in Turkey is not guaranteed for people fleeing neighbouring Syria as the border has been closed for some time.”


The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was less critical but said the manner in which it is implemented will be “crucial”.


It said Greece’s reception conditions and its systems for assessing asylum claims and dealing with people with refugee status must be “rapidly strengthened”.


“The safeguards in the agreement have to be established and implemented, which will be an enormous challenge needing urgent addressing,” it added.


Under the agreement struck on Friday by Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU leaders, all migrants arriving in Greece from March 20th will be sent back to Turkey.


In exchange, EU countries will begin accepting 72,000 migrants from Turkey under a resettlement plan, though that figure will be reviewed.


Irish Times