The EU Turkey Deal: Uncovering Direct and Indirect Consequences
On Friday 22th of September 2017 Utrecht University organized a closed roundtable meeting where preliminary research findings from the research project ‘Evidence-based assessment of migration deals: the case of Turkey’, were presented. This roundtable was hosted by the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law. The audience was diverse, ranging from policymakers from the Ministry of Security and Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lawyers, human right defenders, academics, the Dutch refugee council, UNHCR and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND). Three short presentations gave input to a lively discussion on various aspects related to the EU Turkey Statement.
Returns from Greece to Turkey: international human right obligations
Turkish authorities have reported that only 57 people readmitted under the deal from Greece to Turkey (out of roughly 1.200) have made an application for international protection in Turkish temporary accommodation camps so far. The concerns that this low number raises about procedural rights and access to protection in Turkey are particularly acute given that only 29% of all readmitted individuals had received negative asylum decisions prior to their readmission from Greece. The situation for Syrians in Turkey is so dire that 19 out of 193 readmitted Syrians chose to return to Syria, where after the evolution of the conflict their lives are now again at risk. The discussion explored whether the known human right failures of the EU-Turkey deal are (as Gerald Knause argues) merely due to the bad and incomplete implementation of the deal, or whether the design of the deal itself is the problem. Can asylum seekers access international protection in Turkey? And what are the geopolitical and financial costs of compromised human right standards for the EU’s current and future cooperation with Turkey, as well as other countries of transit and origin?
The worsening situation for refugees in Turkey
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Turkey has taken in 3 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country. Syrian refugees in Turkey, however, only receive temporary protection in Turkey, and often live in extreme poverty because access to work permits is merely theoretical. Interviews with refugees in Turkey showed that often children have to work in order for the family to earn some money. The discussion also addressed the failed coup attempt and its consequences for refugees in Turkey, illustrating that political changes can and need to be be taken into account during the implementation of migration deals.
Resettlement from Turkey to Europe under the 1 for 1 scheme
Under the terms of EU-Turkey deal, one Syrian would be legally resettled in a EU member state for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greece. So far, The Netherlands has resettled 2.303 Syrians under this scheme – lower than the agreed number (3.200). However, 4.000 Syrians are expected to be resettled to the Netherlands by the end of 2017. Compared to what was promised at the EU level, a maximum number of 72.000, this number is embarrassingly low. Alternative options like Canada’s privately sponsored resettlement schemes are interesting options to increase resettlement numbers.
When we went to visit Syrian families in the Netherlands who had been resettled under this scheme, we discovered that lack of access to interpreters had resulted in most families not seeing a doctor since they arrived in the country, almost one year ago. They had been selected because of their vulnerability, but little was done after their arrival in the Netherlands to help them get healthier. Another worry was that people had often been forced to leave adult children behind in Turkey because they were not allowed to travel with them under the terms of the scheme. Ironically, these family members may still have to make the dangerous crossing across the Aegean in the near future, which this deal was supposed to prevent. Indeed, this may spur migration through alternative routes such as Italy, Romania or Cyprus, if they do not want to get stuck in Greece.
More on this research project: https://migratiedeals.sites.uu.nl