The E.U. should not be proud of the new refugee deal with Turkey

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By Ashli Molina

While Europe agreed to “close” its migrant route, blocking asylum seekers from reaching its soil, Turkey agreed to welcome them into their camps with open arms. This was made possible by a deal—let’s call it a migrant exchange—formed earlier this week at a summit between the European Union and Turkey, who put up a tough fight. The country demanded a lot of financial aid to help refugees stay in Turkey, accelerated talks about joining the E.U., and visa-free travel within the E.U. for Turkish citizens. The new deal, however, betrays European values, human rights, and fails to provide an adequate response regarding the worsening refugee crisis. It is a quick fix that benefits all of Europe.

In the past year, millions of desperate people have fled the Middle East and trekked to Turkey, where a start-over in Europe seems accessible. But the short journey is a life-risking one that requires crossing the Aegean Sea.

The new deal makes it so that all new migrants found at sea or who reach Greece by boat will be forcibly turned back around and sent to Turkey. There is also a “one-for-one” rule: For every Syrian sent to Turkey from Greece, the E.U. would accept another Syrian and relocate them within Europe. Iraqi migrants do not qualify for the one-for-one relocation program. German chancellor Angela Merkel called the new deal, which is to be more thoroughly discussed over the next 10 days, a “breakthrough, if it is realized, if it is implemented.”

The EU is paying up a lot of cash to keep refugees out—approximately $6 billion actually. This exchange completely violates human rights. First of all, forced mass expulsions are banned by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which has been signed and promoted by the E.U. As if that wasn’t clear, article 19 of the E.U.’s charter of fundamental rights forbids collective expulsions. The UN and human rights activists have already expressed that mass expulsions would infringe on international law. Critics have made it clear that this sort of response to the refugee crisis would only strengthen Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule—Turkey is already on the brink of becoming an authoritarian regime. Europe would be putting refugees in the hands of a country with a repulsive human rights record. There is evidence that Turkey has even been sending back Syrian refugees to Syria, and Europe would need to accept responsibility for this expulsion.

Europe can and should respond to the refugee crisis with a more solid, unflawed, acceptable plan.


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