REFUGEES and migrants who land in Greece or surrounding countries will be deported to Turkey from Sunday (March 20), although Spain's acting government has succeeded in blocking the planned immediate returns or collective deportations.
European heads of State have reached an agreement with the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, that all 'illegal' migrants – even if they are asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria – who make it to Greece or beyond will be returned to Turkey after the weekend.
But the deal stresses that each asylum-seeker will be given 'individual treatment' when they present their applications on Greek soil and has made an 'express reference' to there being no 'group expulsions' nor anyone turned back immediately at the border.
The latter two conditions were those Rajoy had been intending to campaign for in response to every single MP in opposition and a large chunk of the right-wing PP itself, whose foreign affairs minister José Manuel García-Margallo considered the deal 'illegal', 'immoral', and 'in breach of human rights'.
His views were reflected on the streets of numerous Spanish cities this week as thousands of residents gathered in protest over the EU's plans to 'trade refugees like currency', declaring that 'no human being is illegal' and questioning why Europe wanted to turn away victims of war weapons it had sold to these same victims' countries.
The deal has not been signed and sealed just yet, reveals Rajoy (pictured left, chatting to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, right), but he says he is 'satisfied and optimistic' that the final paper will consider human rights more so thanks to Spain's input.
Rajoy voiced his own government's concerns about collective deportations, calling for individual treatment of asylum-seekers, and says he is relieved to see this has been taken on board.
“It's important that none of the measures sought violates international laws,” Rajoy stressed.
“One assumes that certain requisites would need to be complied with, certain procedures followed, and that there would have to be a decision which would be subject to appeal,” Rajoy considered.
“If not, it's clear that we [Spain] cannot support their conclusions.”
Rajoy added that it would be necessary for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR, or ACNUR in Spain) to take a centre-stage role in any agreement adopted.
First thing tomorrow (Saturday) morning, a meeting with the president of the Council of Europe, Donald Tusk, and of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker will take place, along with the 'shift' president – Dutch PM Mark Rutte – and Davutoglu.
After this, Rajoy explains, all EU leaders will get together to attempt to close the deal.