EU Makes Radical Deal With Turkey To Stem Flow Of Migrants
After talks lasting 12 hours on Monday evening, the EU and Turkey managed to hammer out a deal to try and stem the unending flow of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to reach Greece and begin their new life in Europe.
Under the terms of the agreement, all migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey would be returned and for each Syrian sent back, a Syrian in Turkey would be resettled in the EU. The Syrians eligible for resettlement will come from refugee camps and any irregular migrants (ie those without documentation and outside normal transit procedures) returned to Turkey will be sent to the bottom of the queue for resettlement.
Other Aspects of the Deal
Turkey managed to negotiate some major benefits for agreeing to act as Europe’s Immigration officer. These include:
- Plans to ease access to the EU for Turkish citizens will be speeded up, with a view to allowing visa-free travel by June 2016
- EU payment of €3bn (£2.2bn) promised in October will be speeded up, and a decision will be made on additional funding to help Turkey deal with the crisis. Turkey reportedly asked for EU aid to be increased to €6bn
- Preparations will be made for a decision on the opening of new chapters in talks on EU membership for Turkey
Critics Accuse the EU of Ignoring Turkey’s Human Rights Abuses
No one can accuse Turkey of being inhospitable to Syrian migrants. They have taken in an incredible 2.5 million refugees so far, three times the number who have sought refuge in Europe.
It is well known that Turkey is very keen to join the EU. However, negotiations have stalled due to concerns over Turkey’s Human Rights abuses.
Dr Harry Hagopian is an EU-based public international lawyer who also holds a number of key consultancy positions on political, ecumenical and inter-faith issues relating to the Middle East, North Africa & Gulf regions. He comments in a recent tweet:
Just last week the country’s biggest newspaper, Zamen was raided by police hours after a court ruling placed it under state control. There are also serious concerns about long-standing defects in Turkey’s justice system including concerns over judicial independence, inadequate investigations into abuses by state actors, excessive length of proceedings, and politically motivated prosecutions.
United Nation’s Legal Concerns
Vincent Cochetel, the UN's regional co-ordinator for the refugee crisis in Europe, said: "An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law." However, an increasingly desperate EU has argued that any question of the new agreement contravening EU law can be covered by the fact that Turkey is a ‘safe third country’ for return.
There is also a question of which countries will resettle the migrants exchanged for each one returned. Hungary has already declared it will not have a bar of any resettlement agreement, and the UK’s attitude is likely to be similar, especially as it rests outside the Schengen Zone and is holding a referendum on its future within the EU in June.
The proposition of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens is also likely to meet with fierce opposition.
The next few months will prove how this new agreement will pan out. Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria continues and desperate people continue to flee to Europe in the hope of a better life.
OTS Solicitors are experts in the field of Immigration and Human Rights law. If you have any questions about this article or any other aspect of Immigration law, please call our office on 0207 936 9960 to make an appointment with one of our Immigration solicitors.