Equality and Human Rights Framework

Madrid protests 'one-for-one' refugee negotiations

Thursday 17 March 2016

5,000 people gathered yesterday in Madrid’s bustling Puerta del Sol to protest a draft agreement on refugees between the EU and Turkey.

Raziye Akkoc, and Matthew Holehouse writing for the Telegraph reported that the controversial agreement being negotiated proposes the deportation of migrants from Greece back to Turkey. A ‘one-for-one’ exchange system would be set up, by which Syrian refugees who arrived in Greece would be deported back to Turkey, and in exchange European countries would ‘accept’ one Syrian refugee.

There has been widespread concern that the draft proposal is tantamount to refoulement - the internationally illegal practice of returning a victim of persecution to their persecutor; a persecutor who is often a state actor. Spanish news website Diario Octubre reported that at the demonstration yesterday in Madrid, a statement was read declaring that the agreement “violates the International Bill of Human Rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the Geneva Convention for Refugees".

The organisers expressed anxiety that the proposal provides foundation for the so-called "hot returns" (the process of returning migrants who have decided to not claim asylum, or have been refused it), which in turn “adds to the many decisions of the EU which systematically breaches human rights law”.

The online news portal Noticanarias reported that PSOE (Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party) spokesman Angel Gabilondo said that the treatment of refugees in the EU, and the principle of the agreement with Turkey was a “shame”. Reflecting on the draft treaty with Turkey, Gabilondo concluded that, "we hope not ratify”.

Yesterday’s protest comes in wake of the publication of an open letter demanding that the central government take steps to alleviate the ‘migrant crisis’. Madrid-based daily newspaper La Razón reported last week that the seven autonomous communities of Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Navarre and Valencia had signed the statement, which said the governmental response calls into question some of the basic values on which sits the “very essence European integration". These values include "solidarity between its members, the search for peace, commitment to the promotion democracy and the guarantee and protection of human rights ". The letter called for “greater involvement" when it comes to caring for people displaced by armed conflicts, and “particularly those that are violent and bloody”.

Russia Today noted that in September 2015, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Spain would accept over 14,000 refugees. The mayor of Barcelona agreed to take 2,749 migrants, but only 18 arrived in the whole of Spain.

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