Migrants on a dinghy arrives at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, after crossing from Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015.

Migrants on a dinghy arrives at the southeastern island of Kos, Greece, after crossing from Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File

Report: Turkey Has Become the EU’s Enforcer in Bid to Slow Refugees

A damning Amnesty report claims Turkey abused refugees and pressured some to return to war zones.

Turkey has been accused of abusing hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, and even pressuring some to return to war zones.

The damning report by Amnesty International describes a “less visible human rights crisis” in Turkey, as a result of increased pressure from the EU to halt record flows of migration. Amnesty accuses Turkey of illegally detaining refugees, denying them communication with the outside world, and pressuring some to return to the countries they fled, “in violation of Turkish and international law.”

Amnesty documented three cases of physical abuse in detention centers, and has collected numerous testimonies of ill-treatment from refugees. These human-rights violations are a “new development,” according to Amnesty, which says they began in September 2015. Turkey has brushed off the allegations as false; a Turkish government official told Agence France-Presse: “We categorically deny that any Syrian refugees were forced to return to Syria.”

The country had previously been widely praised for its response to the refugee crisis. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees were crossing into neighboring Turkey as the civil war ravaging their country intensified. A year ago the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counted over 1.6 million refugees, mostly Syrian, in Turkey, and predicted that number to rise to around 1.9 million by now. Turkey has struggled to cope with the influx; hundreds of thousands have inadequate housing, education and healthcare. This was reflected in other refugee camps, particularly in Jordan, as UNHCR announced a $3.47 billion funding gap in June 2015.

With little chance of work (Turkey doesn’t allow them to) and theworsening conditions in the camps, hundreds of thousands of refugees have flocked to Europe—nearly 220,000 refugees and asylum seekersarrived in Europe by sea in October alone.

To stem the flow, the EU turned back to Turkey. An EU-Turkey migration deal was signed at a special summit last month (Nov. 29), in which member states offered Turkey €3 billion ($3.4 billion) in aid and further negotiations on Turkey joining the EU, which had previously been postponed. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, emphasized Turkey’s important role in her latest speech defending her refugee policy.

Amnesty’s report, however, calls on the EU to stop this “recklessness” and suspend its deal with Turkey, which it accuses of using EU money to fund an unlawful detention and return program.

“By engaging Turkey as a gatekeeper for Europe in the refugee crisis, the EU is in danger of ignoring and now encouraging serious human rights violations,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement.

The human-rights group suggests the EU should suspend the migration deal until an effective independent monitoring scheme is set up, which will review human-rights compliance and analyze whether EU funds are indeed being used in the way Amnesty alleges.