The temporary deal reached between the European Union (EU) and Turkey, aimed at solving the refugee crisis, has created more challenges than possibilities.
Deportation of refugees from Greece and resettling them in Turkey is easier said than done. Additionally, Turkey seems to have used the opportunity to exploit Europe’s desperate situation that can potentially hamper the deal.
When Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Brussels for further discussions with EU officials, he brought with him additional demands including some, which are irrelevant to the refugee crisis.
According to previous deals reached between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Davutoglu, the EU would set aside three billion euro for Turkey to contain refugees. However, during the second round of meeting, to the surprise of EU officials, Davutoglu demanded twice the agreed amount, a visa-free travel for Turks to the Schengen zone and fast-tracking Turkey’s EU membership bid.
Turkey’s EU membership bid began in 1989, 27 years ago! And for various reasons it is still a debatable issue. So why are the Turks bringing the membership issue now when it is known that it has nothing to do with the refugee problem?
The members of EU are expected to discuss ‘new demands’ before coming up with a decision. But what Turkey is doing appears to be blackmailing rather than presenting genuine demands to end the crisis.
It appears that Davutoglu is repeating what the former Libyan strongman Colonel Muammar Gadaffi did with Italy. In 2010, Italy was inundated with African refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The then Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, discussed the issue with Gadaffi, who demanded $6.6bn a year to stem the refugee tide (The New York Times, March 11, 2016). And if not, Gadaffi warned, “Europe will be another Africa.” Gadaffi got his money, but refugee problem continued.
The EU expects Turkey to accommodate all repatriated Syrian refugees. However, refugees are unlikely to return to Turkey for various reasons. They have paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to people smugglers, their life savings.
They don’t want to return to a country where they had experienced hardships, little job opportunities and scant social services including education and health. The prime aim of going to Europe was to seek a better life full of opportunities. If refugees refuse to leave their squalid camps, which is likely, force may be used to evacuate them, the action of which may contradict the basic human rights issues the Europeans cherish.
The EU has proposed one seemingly good idea: “For every Syrian sent back to Turkey from Greece, the EU promises to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey or ‘one in, one out’ deal.” The deal appears to tackle illegal entry and not to reduce the refugee influx to EU.
Another issue worth considering is if Syrian refugees are allowed legal entry to Europe, all Syrians from within the country and those from neighbouring countries will converge on Turkey, expecting to travel safely and freely to Europe, further crowding the refugee population in Turkey.
Refugees caught in the confusion may seek the services of people smugglers and by doing so, will be exposed to life threatening situations along the way. Recently, some of the refugees entered the EU after crossing dangerous routes through Russia’s northern frontier.
Containing refugees need the co-ordinated efforts of countries involved. It is a messy situation and may take time and sap huge financial resources. As the main player in the game, Turkey should stop being “opportunist” and show genuine readiness to solve the crisis, without attaching strings to its participation.