Rights group slams potential deal aimed at blocking flow of migrants
Amnesty International is calling on the EU not to strike a deal with Ankara which could halt the flow of migrants. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkey would accept mass returns of refugees from Europe and prevent future migrants from illegally crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece. The EU, in turn, would admit one legal Syrian refugee directly from Turkey for each one taken back. Amnesty members say such a swap is "inhumane". They brandished lifejackets at a symbolic protest against the deal in Brussels.
Fotis Filippou, Deputy Europe Director for Campaigns at Amnesty International: "We're telling EU leaders that they should actually realise refugees are humans and not merchandise, and they should not go into trading in human lives, with human lives. We brought 28 life jackets bearing that message representing the 28 EU member states."
The EU is expected to finalise the deal on Friday in a meeting between Council President Donald Tusk and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. In the meantime, more than 10 000 people remain stranded at a border camp between Greece and Macedonia. If the agreement is reached, they all will have to return to Turkey. Many believe their fate is tied to the decisions made in Brussels.
Omar, Syrian refugee: "God willing something good will come out of this (meeting), I hope they will have a conscience and feel for us. Just my dream is to cross the border, because we running away from the war, we're looking for a piece of land to protect us, that's what we're looking for. Please Europe, we came here to cross the border, I know you have a big heart everybody in Europe, we need that."
Most of the migrants are fleeing from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They hope to reach Germany and other Western European nations. But their path has been blocked by border closures by Macedonia and neighbouring states.
Hindia Assaleh, Syrian refugee: "My husband is an old man, he's sick, he had a heart attack and he's getting worse here… go look at how he is living, he can't go to the bathroom anymore I went to buy him diapers, our situation is terrible, we've been here for five days, it's too much, please open the door."
Since the first days of the Syrian conflict, more than one million refugees have arrived in Europe. They often take dangerous routes across land and sea. Such crossings have resulted in hundreds of deaths. Many of those now seeking to make the journey find themselves having to cope with deteriorating sanitary conditions and cold weather.