On 22 September the Knowledge Platform welcomed Jill Alpes and Ilse van Liempt from Utrecht University, and Orcun Ulusoy from Borderline Europe to present the preliminary findings of their NWO-funded research on the EU-Turkey deal on migration. The central question concerned whether ongoing documented human rights violations are the result of imperfect implementation of the EU-Turkey deal or fundamental problems in the design of the deal itself.
The design of the EU-Turkey deal is based on the premise that international protections are accessible to relocated persons in Turkey, the idea that migrants are distinguishable from refugees, and the notion that relocating asylum seekers to Turkey from Greece will have a deterrent effect on unregulated migratory streams to the EU.
However, preliminary findings on the direct and indirect consequences of the deal expose significant concerns over return-based management. Turkish accommodation facilities are poor and reportedly ‘detention-like’. Both Turkey and Greece lack the operational and administrative capacity to ensure access to and transparency over application as well as appeals procedures. In Turkey, poor treatment of asylum-seekers, discrimination and disenfranchisement of minorities, lacking medical facilities and scarce labor opportunities evidence a general disregard of rights of asylum-seekers. The deal arguably jeopardized the EU’s negotiations on migration deals with other countries, such as Lebanon, and devalued its human rights component.
Recent changes in Turkish legislation further underline the uncertainty of asylum seekers’ status and safety. Decree no. 676 allows for the deportation of asylum seekers and internationals if they are alleged to have terrorist affiliations, without judicial oversight. This national provision undermines the international protection status of refugees.
The current EU-Turkey appears to disincentivize following irregular and dangerous routes into Europe and seems to have slowed migratory flows. That being said, accelerated application procedures are implemented at the cost of procedural safeguards. The resettlement portion of the deal, specifically in cases of the Netherlands acting as a receiving state, has yielded positive feedback. While the resettlement portion of the EU Turkey deal has been rendered inaccessible to most vulnerable asylum-seekers, overall the Dutch relocation and integration program has successfully maintained its functionality in response to the migration crisis.
From Responsibility Shifting to Responsibility Sharing
Discussants concluded the event by developing mitigating strategies and calling for currently operating EU deals to be analyzed for conflict potential. Fast-tracking procedures should not prevent quality assessment and diminish their accessibility. Increased European solidarity is necessary to adequately address the issue of migration and encourage responsibility sharing, although member states are constrained by political realities. Increased transparency in application procedures will mitigate discriminatory policies. Accountability on the EU level continues to be a problem, particularly in light of the General Court’s assertion that it lacks jurisdiction over the deal.
Finally, robust conversations between member states, international organizations and other actors must address conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies in the Middle East, and must confirm commitments towards treatment of refugees as key elements towards resolving the migration crisis on the long term.