Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Monday criticized an EU-Turkey deal on refugees, saying it undermines their rights under international law.
"The EU-Turkey deal has been a disaster for the thousands who have been left stranded in a dangerous, desperate and seemingly endless limbo on the Greek islands," said Gauri van Gulik, the organization's deputy director for Europe.
"It is disingenuous in the extreme that European leaders are touting the EU-Turkey deal as a success, while closing their eyes to the unbearably high cost to those suffering the consequences," she added.
The proposal outlines the repatriation of one migrant from the EU to Turkey in exchange for each Syrian refugee the 28-nation bloc accepts from Turkish camps. The deal also stipulates the possibility of the swap given that Turkey is a "safe country."
However, since the deal was agreed in March last year, very few refugees have been returned, in part due to migrants' rights to apply for asylum in Greece upon arriving.
'Squalid living conditions'
Amnesty also slammed the European Commission for failing to do more for refugees. More than one million people entered the bloc in 2015, many of them fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The human rights watchdog lamented the "squalid living conditions" that migrants endure in "overcrowded camps" on the Greek isles, where many remain in detention centers.
"Nobody should die in the cold on Europe's doorstep. Leaders who claim the EU-Turkey deal could be a blueprint for new ones with countries like Libya, Sudan, Niger and elsewhere should look at the horrible consequences and be warned: this should never be repeated," said van Gulik.
However, a spokesman for the EU Commission, the bloc's executive body, said the main objective of the agreement was to destroy the business model of human smugglers, adding that its purpose was to protect human life.
In the wake of the deal, the number of migrants making the dangerous crossing across the Aegean Sea dropped significantly, he added.
ls/rt (dpa, epd)