17 May 2019
Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) and PRO ASYL urge the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to release a document with a title “Country information Pack, the Asylum System in Turkey”(full version dated 15 June 2016). The document reportedly includes significant information showing that Turkey cannot be considered as a safe third country.
In March 2019, media reports in Greece have mentioned the existence of the abovementioned document including allegations that the document had been downgraded and never published as it brought to light facts about Turkey against political imperatives dictated by EASO’s management, the European Commission and specific Member States promoting the EU-Turkey “deal”. More specifically it is alleged that the document has been downgraded because it documented that Turkey cannot be considered as a safe third country. Some traces indicating that Turkey does not fulfil the criteria of a safe country are existent already in the redacted version of the document.
Following the recent media publication, RSA submitted a request to access the documents including the aforementioned 2016 report. EASO responded by transmitting a heavily redacted draft version of the report.
According to the agency’s assessment- based on Regulation 1049/2001 – a disclosure of the non-redacted report “could seriously undermine the protection of privacy and integrity of individuals (in particular it could lead to identifying of the non-public sources), and international relations with a third country; as well as the protection of the agency’s decision making process”.
RSA and PRO ASYL would like to draw attention to the fact that the same Regulation is explicit on the agency’s obligation to release a document when there is an overriding public interest in disclosure. In particular, following serious public allegations that remain unanswered by EASO and the European Commission, there is very strong public interest in clarifying the content of the report and at the same time protecting clearly the identity of sources and not censoring the content of their testimonies.
During the past three years, the EU-Turkey “deal” has created a situation where thousands of refugees on Greek islands live in deplorable conditions, vulnerable individuals have faced grave harm and lives have been lost in circumstances linked with these conditions. Greece has been severely criticized many times for substandard reception conditions, even by the authorities that appear to have “downgraded” the document, including the European Commission.
RSA and PRO ASYL remain firm in their belief that every single human life counts and should not be underestimated by the benefit of political priorities of any entity or bureaucracy, regardless how powerful this might be.
EASO and the European Commission are accountable for the consequences of the EU-Turkey “deal” and therefore obliged for the interests of transparency, to release this crucial report.