THE BLOG

EU-Turkey Deal at Most Part of Solution to Refugee Crisis

24/03/2016 12:52 | Updated 25 March 2017

Deal with the devil?

The refugees deal between the EU and Turkey has at least one hopeful aspect: for the first time during the migrant crisis the 28 EU members more or less acted united. Under the deal, migrants arriving in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected. For every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey, one Syrian already in Turkey will be relocated in the EU (with the number capped at 72,000). The tens of thousands of migrants already in Greece will not be returned to Turkey under the terms of the deal - but in theory will be shared between the members of the EU.

In return for taking back migrants Turkey will get the following:

> Turkish nationals should have access to the Schengen passport-free zone by June if Turkey implements a list of over seventy demands that has to do with safety and regulation.
> The EU is to speed up the allocation of €3bn in aid to Turkey to help migrants. If those billions are deemed to have been spent in a good way by the EU, an extra €3bn will be released.
> Both sides agreed to re-energise Turkey's bid to join the EU, with talks due by July.

Optimal result?

The deal will almost certainly cut numbers - and already, people smugglers in Turkey say they have seen their businesses dwindle - but history shows that when one route closes, another one opens. Other potential routes lie between Turkey and Bulgaria, Turkey and Italy, Libya and Italy, Morocco and Spain, and Russia and Finland. Moreover, 72,000 migrants can slip through Turkey's borders before the refugees deal is invalidated, but in the first 48 hours that the deal went into effect already over 2,000 people made it to Greece. If the flow of people continues like this, the agreement will be annulled before the summer. Of course, the hope is that within days the Turks will have their border security ramped up.

In certain ways, the migrant deal was the best Europe could have hoped for in the current situation, but I still am quite skeptical that the deal will put an end to the crisis. It's still very uncertain whether the deal lives up to international humanitarian law. In addition, the EU will have to transfer hundreds of specialists to Greece in order to help the country out with the handling of the tens of thousands of migrants. Among others, France and Germany have already send over personnel, but Greece still faces large shortages in manpower to protect the borders and carry out the necessary paper work to return migrants to Turkey. And I doubt that the relocation of the refugees already in Greece will go smoothly as the old deal of resettlement of 160,000 asylum seekers has been an utter failure.

The deeper problem

All in all, my view on the EU-Turkey deal is: seeing is believing. Speaking about seeing: if media show images and videos of families being forcefully muscled onto boats and airplanes public opinion could sour on the deal. And we mustn't forget that this deal can only be one part of the solution of the migrant crisis: as long as the violence, chaos and wars in the greater Middle East continue, people will keep fleeing from their homes and countries. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey already house between 10 and 100 times as many refugees as the EU relative to their respective populations. These societies can't cope with continuing inflows of refugees much longer...