Turkey has received its thirty pieces of silver in return for selling out the very refugees it claims to be saving.
The contentious agreement to “end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU” officially went into effect on Sunday, March 20. As part of the deal, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan will obtain €3 billion ($3.4 billion) now from the EU and another €3 billion by 2018, in exchange for turning his country into an open-air prison for asylum seekers.
While it does not state this explicitly, the spirit of the agreement represents an obvious continuation of the EU’s lack of compassion toward the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Even a cursory examination of the agreement’s terms reveals the EU’s desire to be rid of the refugees.
Pursuant to the deal, all asylum seekers who reach Greece will be immediately returned to Turkey, with the EU covering the cost. Following intense criticism by human rights groups, who claim this provision violates international law, which requires countries to accept asylum seekers and assess the merits of their claims wherever they land, an additional provision was included that would allow refugees arriving in Greece to be “duly registered” there first.
Then there is the infamous “one-for-one” provision, which states that “for every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU.” Priority will be given to refugees who have not attempted to enter the EU “irregularly,” meaning by people smugglers or on foot. This arrangement is not expected to last very long, however. The EU has limited its intake to a total of 72,000 refugees in 2016; in just January and February of this year, 122,637 refugees reached Greece, according to the UNHCR.
With the Greek island route closed, Turkey has pledged to “take any necessary measures” to prevent a new route from opening between Turkey and Europe. Many groups have predicted that refugees will respond by reopening the route from North Africa to Italy, most likely through Libya, where there is no functioning government to block them.
In a statement published on Thursday, March 17, the day before the agreement was passed, Amnesty International declared: “Let’s not confuse desperation for legality when it comes to Europe’s proposed refugee deal with Turkey.”
On March 18, Bill Frelick, the Refugee Program Director for HRW tweeted:
— Bill Frelick (@BillFrelick) March 18, 2016
Making a complete about face from her open door policy toward refugees in 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has thrown her support behind the EU-Turkey agreement. Her government has defended this new position, arguing that the deal with Turkey will prevent smugglers from exploiting refugees.
Our research shows refugees and migrants do not make the decision to leave their home lightly, are willing to take significant risks and will not be deterred by the policies and restrictions of EU countries. Those excluded from the deal will continue to try different, more dangerous routes if the border between Turkey and Greece is shut to them. The EU has failed to provide a humane or pragmatic response to the crisis, what is now needed is leadership at the global level.