EU fails its responsibility on responding to migrant crisis

Tommaso Della Longa / Italian Red Cross

The massive flow of migrants has induced the EU to forge a controversial agreement with Ankara to send to the neighboring country migrants who arrive in the Greek islands, even the Syrians. In turn, the EU is committed to accept an equivalent number of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey. By sending refugees to Turkey, the EU fails its responsibility on responding to humanitarian emergencies within the territory of the EU, particularly in Greece.

Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, called on leaders of the European Union (EU) to serve the more than two million refugees on its territory and taking the advantage of this dialogue on the refugee crisis Turkey is also asking the EU to accelerate the liberalization of visas to Turkish citizens. This opportunistic approach by the Government of Turkey has been strongly criticized by the civil society in the EU. According to the European Policy Centre (EPC), the EU, “paralysed by fear, has offered Turkey economic and political ‘gifts’ to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.” It has stated that Turkey’s leadership “has used this fear not only to strengthen its own position in the accession negotiations with the EU, but also as an opportunity to increase the crackdown on dissent and critical voices at home, without much reproach from the EU.”

Furthermore, the plan dubbed ‘one for one’ envisages treating people fleeing war and state failure like parcels and would be a huge blow to human rights and the rule of law in Europe if ever implemented. Without clear commitment from the EU Member States, when and how that resettlement would take place remains uncertain. All other nationalities of forced migrants who land in Greece would simply be returned to Turkey, and This would certainly create a dramatic legal uncertainty and would in practice be a source of conflict.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Phillipo Grandi, reminded the EU that “a person seeking asylum can only be returned if their protection is safeguarded”.

The agreement would be contrary to international law and Community law and has been rejected by many civil institutions as well as by the vast majority of Congress. Church organizations that work with migrants and refugees, have joined the rejection of this agreement.

The European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, confirmed this request from Ankara in a press conference after attending the summit held today in Brussels. “They have requested additional 3,000 million euros by 2018. The European Parliament is ready to speed up the process in full respect on parliamentarian rights,” Schulz said. The additional 3 billion euros would be paid out through to 2018 to assist Ankara with sheltering Syrian refugees.

Spanish NGOs like Caritas, CONFER and Social Apostolate of the Society of Jesus ask to keep open the external borders of the European Union to ensure access for people with protection needs; to individually process of applying for asylum without discrimination on grounds of nationality, in accordance with European and international standards. They also ask for the prohibition of  mass collective refoulements.

As other NGOs  such as ECREAmnesty and Human Rights Watch have stated, the EU-Turkey proposal runs the grave risk of breaching international and EU law and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) standards.