The major non-EU nation in the ongoing migrationcrisis facing the EU has been Turkey, hosting over 2.7 million Syrian refugees1. Being akey country of transit for those seeking international protection in Europe,throughout 2015 and 2016, 160,5102 refugeesarrived in Greece from Turkey, inevitably leading to a steep increase in thenumber of asylum claims.
In 2016 alone 50963 peopledied crossing the Mediterranean in this fashion and as such politicians ofEurope on 18th March 2016 signed the EU-Turkey agreement to returnthose deemed “inadmissible” back to Turkey once claiming asylum in the EU. Themotives behind this agreement were not purely based on these losses however.Faced with vast numbers of asylum seekers and an ever increasing proportion ofthe public exasperated with liberal policies, politicians concerned over theirown domestic futures created the deal as a deterrence policy to migrants; a wayto not solve the issue but keep the it at bay. In many ways, nearly 2 years onfrom it’s conception, the agreement combined with the closing of the Balkanroute, has deterred many from making this crossing. The deal has been somewhatof a balancing act, being based upon the ideas of ‘first country of asylum’ and’safe third country’ held in the Asylum Procedures Directive4.
Thesewill be examined in detail along with Greek asylum appeal committee decisions andthe decision in the cases of NF,NG and NM v European Council5. Thepractical reality, this paper will discuss, is that of disguised breaches ofinternational law on behalf of the EU and as a consequence, a lack of humanrights protection at the hands of an overwhelmed Turkish government. The agreement between the EU and Turkey is oneof the largest scale attempts to govern the current emergency. The two mainaims of the deal are to close down a viable route for smugglers and deter thosetrying to enter the EU by irregular means.
As a part of the agreement, bothsides settled on several main points that must be achieved. The main elementsbeing that all irregular migrants, transiting from Turkey to Greece after theenactment date of 20 March 2016 should be sent back to Turkey, complying withthe Asylum Procedures Directive and international law. Crucially, for each individualsent back to Turkey, another Syrian asylum seeker would be allowed to settlewithin the EU. For Turkey to cope with the sheer number of refugees, theEuropean Union gave €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees and upon thefunds having been used a further €3 billion more would be provided by the startof 2019. The first payment of €3 billion was intended to aid in improving the developmentand humanitarian needs of refugees in Turkey as well as alleviating thepressures on the communities hosting them. Measures would also be taken to avoidnew migration routes opening between Turkey and the EU. Furthermore, Turkishcitizens would further enjoy visa liberalisation for travel within Schengenarea.
6 1 UNHCR, ‘Refugees/Migrants Emergency ResponseMediterranean’ (Operational Portal Refugee Situations, 2017)