Amnesty International, the peace organization PAX, Defense for Children, and the Bootvluchteling Foundation believe that the Dutch government is responsible for the human rights violations asylum seekers suffered following the EU-Turkey asylum deal. “Tens of thousands were trapped in appalling and degrading conditions on the Greek islands,” the organizations said. If the government does not admit its liability, the organizations will take the “second step” by filing a lawsuit.
According to the organizations, the Netherlands, as president of the Council of the European Union, played an essential role in concluding and implementing the deal. The Netherlands “could have foreseen” that things would go wrong after warnings from NGOs. “Amnesty also warned the government in 2016 that this would be a historic mistake. It is distressing that many politicians, including our own prime minister, are still proud of the EU-Turkey deal.”
The organizations say they seek “dialogue” with the government about the recognition of legal responsibility. “We want to talk about restoration of rights by the government and the conditions for any future migration deals: they must not be concluded if they foreseeably lead to human rights violations and without parliamentary scrutiny.” If the dialogue does not lead to the government acknowledging its liability, the organizations will file a lawsuit against the Dutch State.
“The State has a month to respond and to let it be known that it agrees with the requirements set out in the notice of liability or is prepared to enter into consultations about this,” said an Amnesty International spokesperson. No talks are planned, but the organizations are “open to an invitation.”
The EU-Turkey deal was supposed to stop asylum seekers from coming to Europe in large numbers. “Based on the deal, Greece would be allowed to return people who illegally crossed from Turkey to the Greek islands back to Turkey, even though it was already clear that Turkey was not a safe country because it could not provide for the basic needs of asylum seekers. In addition, Greece had a dysfunctional asylum system,” the organizations said.
In practice, this led to countless asylum seekers being trapped in refugee camps on the Greek islands. “In recent years, there have been issues such as overcrowding, a lack of education, medical and sanitation facilities, far too long asylum procedures, structural insecurity, exposure to physical and sexual violence, and a lack of suitable food. Yet the deal has been maintained for years,” Amnesty said.