Greece passes bill to return migrants to Turkey | News | DW | 01.04.2016
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Greece passes bill to return migrants to Turkey

Politicians in Athens have passed a crucial bill to send back refugees to Turkey. The bill clears the way for the implementation of an agreement with Ankara to end the uncontrolled influx of migrants into Europe.

"The law was adopted by a majority of 169 of the 276 MPs present," Tassos Kourakis, who presided over the session, said on Friday.

The government said it would ensure that the rights of asylum-seekers would be protected under international law.

"A blame game against our country is starting, that based on the new agreement, we will encroach on human rights" Greece's Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas told the parliament before the vote.

"I assure you - and I believe this will relieve everyone - that we will strictly adhere to human rights procedures as stipulated by international law and the Geneva Convention," he added.

Greek lawmakers also did not explicitly call Turkey a "safe third country" in the new document.

Rights groups criticize deal

Both Greece and Turkey were required to tweak their laws before the EU-Ankara deal was implemented. The agreement intended to assist Greece, which has been coping with 52,000 refugees stranded in the country after the Balkan states closed their borders in February.

According to the deal, any refugees who reached Greece before March 20 and did not apply for asylum or failed to qualify would be sent back to Turkey. For every refugee sent back by Ankara to Syria , one would be resettled from Turkey to the EU, with the maximum limit set to 72,000.

The pact has been widely criticized by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and rights groups, who have denounced it for lacking safeguards.

"In their desperation to seal their borders, EU leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day," Amnesty's John Dalhuisen told dpa news agency.

EU officials have meanwhile said they are raising the issue with Ankara and trying to improve the situation in Greek reception centers. "We are aware that there are tensions, that there are capacity problems - this is precisely why we are there in the process of helping the Greece authorities to manage the situation," an EU spokeswoman told dpa news agency.

mg/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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