1) All new irregular migrants arriving from Turkey on the Greek islands from 20 March 2016 will be repatriated to Turkey. This will be done in full compliance with EU and international law, which excludes any form of collective expulsion. All migrants are protected in accordance with applicable international standards and the principle of non-refoulement. It will be a temporary and exceptional measure necessary to end human suffering and restore public order. Migrants arriving on the Greek islands are duly registered and each asylum application is processed individually by the Greek authorities, in cooperation with UNHCR, by the Greek authorities. Migrants who do not apply for asylum or whose claim has been found to be unfounded or inadmissible under this directive are returned to Turkey. Turkey and Greece, with the support of EU institutions and agencies, will take the necessary measures and conclude all necessary bilateral agreements, including the presence of Turkish officials on the Greek islands and Greek officials in Turkey from 20 March 2016, in order to ensure liaison and thus facilitate the smooth running of these agreements. The cost of returning irregular migrants is covered by the EU. According to the sixth EC report on redistribution and resettlement, 1,614 people have been relocated from Turkey to EU countries since the Turkey-EU agreement in March 2016, doubling the number of the previous report published on 13 July.
Nevertheless, there are gaps in the implementation of this mechanism. Since the implementation of the agreement, 578 refugees have returned from the Greek islands to Turkey, including only 53 Syrians. The legal framework for the return declaration was the bilateral readmission protocol concluded in 2002 between Turkey and Greece. (5) However, the parties have not completed the legal procedure to advance the implementation, until 1 June 2016, of the provisions of the readmission agreement between the European Union and Turkey concerning the readmission of third-country nationals, which dates back to 2014. This omission has made the protocol between Greece and Turkey the only legal basis for the implementation of the readmission provisions contained in the EU-Turkey declaration. Although the agreement provides for the entry into force of the provisions on third-country nationals by 1 October 2017, the European Commission indicated in its 2018 report on Turkey that Turkey had not implemented the agreement, citing the fact that the EU had not taken the necessary steps for visa liberalisation. (6) However, the Commission`s aforementioned report also noted a deterioration in the implementation of the protocol between Turkey and Greece. (7) The Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevl`t Éavuéolu, also stated that this protocol, which constitutes the legal basis for the implementation of readmissions on the basis of the declaration, has been suspended. (8) On 22 July 2019, Turkey announced that it had suspended the readmission agreement due to the non-completion of the EU visa liberalisation procedure for Turkish citizens. (9) Although it is not certain that Euvuolu referred to the formal suspension of the 2014 readmission agreement or the suspension of the 2016 declaration, this statement should be interpreted as a sign that Turkey does not intend to be bound by an agreement to readmission third-country nationals from the European Union. On the other hand, it should be noted that readmissions on the basis of the EU-Turkey declaration continued after the first announcement of the suspension of the Greece-Turkey protocol, as evidenced by several sources, including the 2018 European Commission report on Turkey, the “migration statistics” published by the Directorate General for Migration Management and field studies.