EU Home Affairs Ministers met last week at the Justice and Home Affairs Council (7 and 8 March). Ministers reviewed where the EU stands in its cooperation with North African countries on migration, and explored where further assistance can be provided. This Council meeting was organised a few days before the third anniversary of the controversial EU-Turkey deal, an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe. The second tranche of the contribution to Turkey in 2018 was €3 billion, as foreseen in the Statement, mobilising €1 billion from the EU budget. The first tranche of the Facility set up in 2016 was made up of €1 billion from the EU budget and €2 billion from Member States' contributions. From the outset this agreement seemed controversial, not only for the size of the financial contribution, but also for the fact that the EU overlooked the serious human rights violations perpetrated in recent years by the Turkish government.
The EU played the blame game; failing, or rather not wanting to deal with migration management, trying to find systemic solutions within it, preferring to delegate third countries to manage the issue. The premise on which the deal was constructed – namely that Turkey is a safe place for refugees – was flawed. In the months following the deal, Greece’s asylum appeals committees ruled in many instances that Turkey does not provide effective protection for refugees. Instead, all asylum applications had to be assessed in Greece and refugees were corralled on the Greek islands in squalid and unsafe conditions. As the different Greek NGOs have ascertained, there are still around 12,000 people that were forced to spend the winter in inadequate reception and identification centres, in Greek hotspots, in violation of their fundamental rights.
Turkey denies full refugee status to non-Europeans and the conditions in the country have shown it is unable to provide effective protection as required under international law. This means that the three million refugees in the country, virtually all of whom are non-European, have no way to be self-reliant. Struggling to meet people’s basic needs, the Turkish authorities are failing to ensure that refugees and asylum-seekers are able to live in dignity.
SOLIDAR network ask for an end this deal urgently. We also stress the need to stop the growing externalisation of migration management through cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Libya and Turkey, and the recent deal with Egypt. Europe cannot continue to solve migration issues by signing economic deals with countries that do not respect fundamental rights and international conventions. The message that has been sent over the last few years is that the only solution to the issue is to prevent migrants from arriving in Europe by closing the borders. SOLIDAR insists that closing borders has only one consequence – killing people who are fleeing wars, prosecution, climate disaster and poverty.