Last year’s deal between the European Union (EU) and Turkey meant greater cooperation on dealing with migrants reaching European shores. What’s behind the deal and how has it played out so far?
The deal came into effect on March 20, 2016 and was meant to stem the tide of migrants coming into Greece. This began with sending migrants on Greek islands to Turkey. According to the deal, for every individual migrant sent to Turkey from Greece, the Turkish authorities would send a refugee in Turkey to the EU.
These migrants in Greece include those who do not qualify for asylum or have withdrawn their asylum applications. They can thus be returned to Turkey, which is considered a safe country.
The Turkish government, in exchange for participating in the deal, has received financial support from the EU towards aid for refugees in Turkey. This figure was originally estimated to be at least 3 billion Euros. Turkish passport holders had also been promised entry into the Schengen area without visas in a process called visa liberalization. Last but not least, Turkey hoped the deal would reopen discussions for the country to accede into the EU.
In July last year, there was a coup attempt towards Erdogan’s government and since then, there have been mass arrests towards those the Turkish government believes are responsible - including people with links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, considered to have masterminded the putsch. Turkey's deteriorating human rights record has made European authorities skeptical of taking steps forward in Turkey’s accession in the EU and providing Turkish nationals visa-free access to the 26-nation Schengen area.
In November last year Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the EU of not being fair towards Turkey in regards to the deal. He also said the EU did not keep its promise of aid money.
Also worth mentioning is that there was a slight downturn in the number of migrants traveling to the EU after the deal's implementation in March. But after the attempted coup towards Erdogan in July 2016, there were reports saying the number of refugees originating in Turkey could rise.
Also, Greece hasn't deported as many migrants as expected, which means migrants heading there aren't as afraid of being sent back. Thousands of refugees are on Lesbos and other Greek islands.
As of now, Greece is trying to fast track the asylum applications so that they can determine quicker which migrants can stay and which ones can be deported to Turkey.
More information: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-963_en.htm
Author: Wesley Dockery