The EU-Turkey Deal: Outsourcing Humanitarian Obligations

The EU-Turkey Deal: Outsourcing Humanitarian Obligations

On the 18th of March, the EU and Turkey have entered a highly controversial deal on Syrian refugees – yes, a deal rather than a political agreement, as both sides get to gamble on the lives of the refugees while money flows from one side to the other.

The action plan on refugees between the EU and Turkey was already signed back in November 2015, however, the route to implementation has been unclear until the 18th of March. The implementation plan consists of several key points, and, to some extent, all of them make one question the EU’s dedication to support fundamental human rights.

This plan foresees only one concrete and many blurry obligations for the EU. It begins with the requirement for Turkey to take back all the new migrants from Greece. The second paragraph then softens the first requirement in the eyes of the Turks, as it states that the EU will accept one in every two refugees’ resettlement within EU borders. On top of this Russian roulette, the EU will stop playing the game when the number has reached 18.000. The member states, however, may keep accepting refugees on a voluntary basis – but not more than an additional 54.000 in total. This ‘generosity’ will surely make a tremendous difference to Turkey and the 2.7 million (!) refugees currently living there. Turkey also has to take all the measures to prevent illegal migration. The only must for the EU is to pay money, and then some: €3 billion now and 3billion more by 2018.

What does this deal bring to Turkey other than money? The answer is: a number of promises that are not binding for the EU. The Turkish government advertises these promises as an almost guarantee for Turkey’s accession to the EU as well as a visa waiver. But the deal only mentions that the talks on both topics will be “accelerated”, provided that Turkey behaves well. So the only obligation for the EU is to up the rhetorical ante.

In return, Turkey has to ensure that it becomes a human rights loving country by June. Turkey’s human rights violations have always been the biggest obstacle blocking its accession. The country is responsible for most of the workload at the European Court of Human Rights.

How realistic is it to think that Turkey will all of a sudden treat refugees as well as its own citizens with love and respect?

Not realistic at all in the case of the refugees. A Human Rights Watch report demonstrates how Turkey has hardly any infrastructure to attain to their needs. In January, The Guardian published an article on how refugee children are put to child-labour. Recently, Amnesty International revealed that Turkey has been unlawfully detaining and pressuring refugees to return to war zones.

Of course it is very nice to see the EU acting generous in financial terms. However, how certain is it that this money will go to the refugees in need? After all, only two years ago Turkey’s ruling party AKP faced a massive corruption scandal worth millions of dollars. Around the same time, president Erdogan finished the construction of his very own presidential complex, which is four times the size of Versailles and costs around $615 million. The two may not be related, however, they are evidence that, in principle, the money is there.

This deal will not bring any solution to the refugee crisis and it surely makes the EU look like a quick-fixer. Worse, with this deal the EU jeopardizes its core values as well as the fundamental rights of refugees. Outsourcing humanitarian obligations with such a controversial deal is bound to fail.


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