The UK Home Office has determined that returning asylum seeking Turkish nationals to their homeland would be unsafe due to prevailing human rights issues, thwarting a critical component of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s immigration policy, specifically aimed at reducing the influx of migrants by small boat.
This decision emerged amid efforts to forge a migrant returns agreement with Turkey, akin to a successful arrangement with Albania, to address the sharp rise in Turkish migrants reaching the UK illegally.
Last year, Turkish nationals constituted the third-largest group arriving by small boats, with figures soaring by 162% from the previous year, highlighting the urgent need for such an agreement. However, an internal review by the Home Office labelled Turkey as unsafe, citing the state’s ‘over-zealous’ enforcement of anti-terrorism laws, lack of judicial independence, and allegations of torture, which predominantly affect political dissidents. These findings pose significant challenges to Sunak’s broader migration policies, including contentious plans related to the Rwanda bill and adherence to European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings.
The UK’s intention to secure a returns deal was part of broader efforts to curb illegal migration and human smuggling, with Turkey being a pivotal geographical point due to its proximity to the EU and its role as a transit country for refugees and migrants.