Greek court says Syrian refugees can be returned to Turkey
By FANIS KARABATSAKIS
In a case with implications for thousands, the court found that deported refugees face no threat of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, or punishment in Turkey.
Greece's supreme court ruled Friday that refugees can be returned to Turkey under last year's migrant deal between the European Union and Turkey, rejecting arguments by two Syrian men that Turkey is not a safe destination.
In a case with implications for thousands of refugees in Greece — and others planning to enter the country seeking asylum — the court found that deported refugees face no threat of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, or punishment in Turkey.
Under the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement to stem migratory flows, refugees or migrants reaching the Greek islands from Turkey will be returned there unless they can prove sufficient reason for seeking asylum in Greece rather than Turkey.
The decision made public Friday concerned two Syrian men, aged 21 and 29, who had their Greek asylum applications rejected and were fighting deportation to Turkey.
They reached Greece's eastern island of Lesbos in July 2016, four months after the agreement came into effect.
The EU-Turkey deal, combined with a series of Balkan border closures, had a big impact on reducing the numbers of people fleeing war or hardship who entered Greece in smuggling boats from Turkey. In the year leading up to it, more than a million people reached the Greek islands on their way to Europe's prosperous heartland.
By contrast, just 18,400 have arrived so far this year. Most remain in crowded camps on the island awaiting decision on their applications for asylum in Greece. Asylum authorities have been waiting for the supreme court ruling.
"This decision is irrevocable, and, effectively, legally facilitates the return of refugees," a Greek Immigration Ministry official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case with journalists.
The two Syrians have no further recourse to appeal in Greece.