EU Turkey Deal: An Update
About a month ago the EU Turkey deal was finalized as a way of addressing the influx of migrants and refugees into Europe through the Greek islands. Amid widespread criticism of the deal I wrote about the positive aspects of the deal's intentions. What remained to be seen was whether or not key players would stick to the script or if beaureacracy and corruption would throw a wrench in the plan. Now, I admit that I am a hopeless optimist and I desperately wanted to believe that the EU Turkey deal might work out in the long run. Among all the naysayers and pessimists, I wanted to be the believer. Well, though I stand by my previous analysis of the EU Turkey deal (which I wrote prior to its implementation), an update is now in order. Here are 4 reasons why I am no longer optimistic about the effectiveness of the EU Turkey deal.
[bctt tweet="4 reasons not to be optimistic about the effectiveness of the #EUTurkeyDeal."]
Greece sent the first group of migrants back to Turkey on April 4th. Of 66 migrants who were deported, at least 13 had expressed a desire to apply for asylum yet were never able to. Another dozen deportees were not allowed to take their personal belongings with them back to Turkey.
While I might hope that this sloppy execution of the new policy is due to the speed with which it was implemented, I believe it actually reveals a deeper incompetency within EU governments. It may also reveal a deliberate attempt to avoid responsibility to vulnerable populations and a covert intention to keep as many refugees and migrants as possible out of Europe.
When the EU Turkey deal was finalized the UNHCR offered their cautious support. Just as I searched for the silver lining, the UN was also so desperate for a solution that they were willing to give the deal a chance. Now, however, their support is wavering. They have made it clear that they will not assist the Greek authorities in implementing mandatory detention and deportation.
This past week, the EU Council, the EU's main human rights body, has also condemned the deal which "at best strains and at worst exceeds the limits of what is permissible under European and international law" The report detailing their concerns with the deal is twelve pages long. If organizations like these are withdrawing support from the policy, then it would be quite naive of me to remain so optimistic in my outlook.
Proponents of the deal have claimed that it would "end" problems like human smuggling and chaotic migration through Europe, replacing them with "legal channels of resettlement." Unfortunately, while the numbers of migrants crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece have decreased, the numbers of those crossing from North Africa to Italy have not. Around April 13th approximately 400 migrants and refugees being smuggled from Egypt to Italy drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized. Migrants are still migrating (surprise!) and they will keep migrating (surprise again!); it's what they do! Unless safe and legal passage to Europe is provided (preferably without threats of mass deportation) migrants will find new ways to get there, and most likely their methods will be dangerous and involve human smugglers.
[bctt tweet="Migrants are still migrating (surprise!) and they will keep migrating (surprise again!)"]
According to the EU Turkey deal, migrants arriving in Greece since March 20th will be sent back to Turkey if their asylum claims are denied. Turkey is getting financial assistance in the billions of euros to resettle those returned, as well as potential visa liberalization for their citizens. Apparently, though, Turkey wants the perks of the deal without the responsibility, because before the ink was dry on the agreement they were shipping migrants and refugees back across the border to Syria and trapping desperate people on the other side of their border wall. Their actions have violated a basic principle of international law called nonrefoulement, which means that refugees have a right not to be returned to the country they fled from. And yet, the EU hasn't put a hold on those billion euro checks.
[bctt tweet="Turkey wants the perks of the #EUTurkeyDeal without the responsibility"]
There are definitely additional reasons for my waning optimism about the EU Turkey deal, but these are the big ones. Additional updates will most likely be in order. For now, though, perhaps we should be pressuring the EU to return to the drawing board, because usually when something fails this badly you don't just ignore it. But wait, we're talking about politicians, so never mind.
Note: This post is kind of depressing, I know, so this weekend I'll be working on a post about some things all of us non-politicians can do to address the refugee crisis.
Image source: Vera Kratochvil