Statement: NOVACT rejects the illegal agreement between the EU and Turkey

The International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT) expresses its strongest condemnation of yesterday’s agreement between the European Union and Turkey in response to the arrival of displaced people on the coasts of Europe, mostly fleeing from the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. This agreement consolidates the model of “hot returns” that Spain launched in Melilla (and included in the Public Security Act [Ley de Seguridad Ciudadana]), while facilitating the entry of Turkey into the European Union, despite ongoing deterioration of democratic values.

The deal, which is expected to be signed next week, involves returning anyone arriving illegally on the Greek coast to Turkey, including the Syrian population, with the commitment to bring from Turkey an equivalent number of refugees to those thrown out. This deal continues the fiasco of how the EU has confront this crisis. Poor management of migration flows and non-observance of the legal obligation to assist those requesting asylum have laid bare the lack of political will and the inconsistency of the EU in its own decision-making. In September there was an agreement for the distribution of 120,000 refugees from the coasts of Greece and Italy. Of these, almost 17,000 should have come to Spain; so far only 18 have done so.

Europe is moving further and further away from its founding values and any credibility in its defence of human rights. The EU is washing its hands of this problem and outsourcing the management of the future of millions of people to Turkey in exchange for doubling financial aid for displaced people and giving in to the blackmail of the authoritarian Erdogan government. All of this violates international asylum law. But not only that, it effectively endorses the inhumane response of most European states to the displaced population.

Over recent months the Macedonian police have fired tear gas into crowds of refugees at the Greek border. Houses occupied by asylum seekers have been daubed with paint in Middlesbrough, England, to facilitate xenophobic attacks. Personal possessions of migrants have been confiscated in Germany, Switzerland and Denmark. At least 10,000 children in Europe have fallen victim to trafficking networks or gender-based violence against women and girls, without any EU action to prevent or cope with these situations. Closed borders with barbed wire fences have been erected in Austria and Hungary.

These actions contrast with citizen mobilisation in support of refugees and the rights of displaced population groups. Most European citizens want their countries to provide help for the victims, as reflected in the latest Eurobarometer published last week (averaging 65% support).


1. NOVACT will take legal action against the agreement between the European Union and Turkey in order to stop, at least for now, implementation of the agreement.

2. We demand that the EU and Member States improve resettlement programmes, make it possible to apply for asylum in third country embassies and consulates, and grant humanitarian visas.

3. We demand safe routes and the opening of borders to those fleeing their place of origin as a result of war or economic, political, social or environmental causes.

4. We demand an increase in efforts to solve the refugee crisis at their point of origin and urgent measures for building peace and international mediation in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Solutions based on military force have proved to be totally ineffective and are the cause of the current crisis. We cannot allow past mistakes to be repeated.

© Foto portada: AFP