The European Union has reached an agreement with Turkey that it hopes will curb the biggest refugee and migration crisis in the region since World War II.
Turkey has agreed to take back any migrants, Syrian or otherwise, who reach the Greek islands starting on March 20th. The EU has, in return, agreed to increase it’s financial assistance of Turkey with regards to managing the refugee crisis to $6.79 by the end of the 2018.
The agreement is aimed at stemming the flow of illegal migrants and stifling the activities of human smugglers, but it very swiftly attracted controversy from all sides, as well as skepticism about its feasibility.
“I don’t have any illusions that what we have agreed today won’t also come with big setbacks,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who drafted the initial proposal. “We have before us an enormous logistical undertaking.”
“We are against decisions that have been taken by the EU and their states; that are unable to find a satisfactory decision compatible with the drama of the situation of those who are living, the millions of people who are gathered in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, at the gates of the EU, where walls and fences are raised to prevent entry,” said European Trade Union Confederation President Ignacio Fernandez.
Human rights and humanitarian organizations responded with resounding condemnation, arguing that sending migrants back to Turkey does not equate to sending them to a safe place.
“In their determination to sidestep their responsibilities in the face of the biggest global refugee crisis since World War II, EU leaders have been mute in their response to these trends in the misguided hope of securing Turkey’s cooperation in stopping the boats,” wrote Amnesty International.
Aurélie Ponthieu, humanitarian affairs adviser for Doctors Without Borders, stated that “the voluntary humanitarian admission scheme put forward for Syrians in Turkey is not based on refugees’ needs for assistance and protection but on Turkey’s ability to stop ‘migration’ to Europe. At a time when millions of people in the world are displaced, it is shameful that the only safe passage offered by the EU is conditional to the number of people they can send back.”