Home News & Stories Stop migration deals at the expense of human lives


08 Apr

A lawsuit against the Dutch state, not a step we took lightly. Today, together with Amnesty International the Netherlands and Defence for Children, we are suing the Dutch state for the consequences of the EU-Turkey deal concluded in 2016. The EU-Turkey deal had far-reaching implications for tens of thousands of people who were and remain trapped in refugee camps on the Greek islands between 2016 and today. The overcrowding, insecurity, and inhuman conditions our organisation witnessed every day in the refugee camp on Lesvos should not have been allowed to take place. Besides providing care we want to ensure structural change. It is unacceptable that no one takes responsibility. The suffering and injustice we witness can and must be stopped.

The EU-Turkey deal in a nutshell

To discourage people fleeing to Europe, EU member states struck a deal with Turkey on 18 March 2016. In exchange for 6 billion euro and several other commitments, Turkey would take all possible measures to prevent people from crossing from Turkey to Greece. A significant part of those who arrived in Greece would also be allowed to be sent back. 

Turkey is not a safe country for many people. In practice, almost no returns to Turkey took place . Other EU member states were and remain unwilling to relocate people. Thousands were trapped on the Greek islands. Greece could not cope with the high number of asylum applications, so people had to wait, sometimes for years, for an asylum decision and were stuck on the Greek islands.

People were forced to stay in overcrowded camps in inhumane conditions lacking medical and sanitary facilities, excessively long asylum procedures, structural unsafety, lack of food, and a lack of education. 

Impact on human lives

We realise that going to court is a drastic measure. We are not doing this because we like going to court but because it is the only remedy left. The EU-Turkey deal had and has a direct impact on people’s lives, and no one is taking responsibility. We strive to prevent migration deals that do not guarantee human rights. We want countries to comply with European and international treaties and laws, so human rights violations, such as those on the Greek islands, stop and are not repeated elsewhere. 

Contributing to structural change

Besides providing medical and psychological care to people on the move, one of Boat Refugee Foundation’s core activities is to advocate for the rights and interests of these people, who find it challenging to make themselves heard due to the vulnerable situation they find themselves in. Besides offering healthcare support, we want to contribute to structural change. Too often, we see how failed policies turn people who have already been through enough into victims. How injustice is perpetrated without policy- and decision-makers realising. We cannot and will not stand silently in the face of injustice and human suffering. We have witnessed for years how the deal caused and worsened inhumane conditions in Greek refugee camps. We have been on the Greek islands continuously since the deal was signed. 

That is why we are taking this step, after all other options have been tried. We collected hundreds of pages of data and evidence. We collected testimonies from people who stayed in the camps. Heartbreaking stories of people whose human dignity has been destroyed, people who still live with fear, people who often elsewhere in Europe, managed to start over. People with incredible resilience.

Take responsibility

Dutch organisations call on their government to take responsibility. Of course, the Netherlands was not the only player in the game. However, the European court previously ruled that the European Union as a whole cannot be held responsible: it was an agreement between Turkey and the 27 European member States. At the time the deal was concluded, The Netherlands was in charge of leading the Council of the European Union and played a crucial role in the creation and implementation of the deal – in fact, by its own admission, it was “the architect” of the deal. 

This has to stop. With the overwhelming amount of evidence that human rights were widely violated by the EU-Turkey deal and that the Netherlands and other European countries looked away, we are counting on our case to convince the court. While the judge deliberates, we continue to provide essential care to people and hope for better. 

Become a dealbreaker

Your support is needed, together we can make a difference. Join our campaign and become a dealbreaker and say: No more deals at the expense of people on the move! Click here and become a dealbreaker.

Want to know more? Visit this page. And for those who really want to dig in: Boat Refugee Foundation has published two ground-breaking reports with evidence. Click here for report 1 and click here for report 2.


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