Migrants and refugees stand behind a fence during the visit of Pope Francis at the Moria refugee camp near the port of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, 16 April 2016 | Photo: EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE
Migrants and refugees stand behind a fence during the visit of Pope Francis at the Moria refugee camp near the port of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, 16 April 2016 | Photo: EPA/FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

In the five years since an agreement was brought in between the EU and Turkey, some 28,621 Syrian refugees have been relocated to EU countries from Turkish camps. NGOs continue to criticize the accord.

Five years after the so-called EU-Turkey deal was reached, a total of 28,621 Syrian refugees have been relocated in the EU from Turkish camps they had been hosted in. 2,140 migrants that disembarked irregularly on Greek islands have been sent back to Turkey.

The accord was heavily criticized by NGOs but led to a sharp reduction in migration flows from Turkey to the EU: from a peak of almost one million people in 2015 to about 10,000 in 2020, with a further drop linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ankara wants a new agreement

In addition to the relocations on the basis of one Syrian transferred to Europe in exchange for one irregular one sent back to Turkey, the pact called for the transfer to Turkey of six billion euros for managing the Syrian refugees hosted in its territory, currently at over 3.6 million.

Brussels has said that 4.1 billion have already been used, while the rest is in contracts and will be spent by 2023.

The government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed instead that the resources used for Syrians so far totals 3.6 million and complained that the EU has not kept its pledges, including the liberalization of visas for Turkish citizens. Turkey now wants the agreement to be renegotiated.

Oxfam warns thousands of migrants suffering on Greek islands

Meanwhile, on the fifth anniversary of the announcement of the agreement between the EU and Turkey, Oxfam on Thursday chimed in with other NGOs criticising the agreement, calling it a total failure of EU policies on migration management and claiming that it has violated the basic rights of tens of thousands of innocent people.

In an open letter addressed to the EU, Oxfam and seven other NGOs called for a radical change in direction that would lead to a definitive halt to building new camps on Greek islands, as provided for by the new EU pact.

Oxfam added that, since the signing of the agreement, not a single day has passed without many families getting trapped in camps on Greek islands in inhumane conditions.

The organization added in a statement that, through the agreement, "The EU's aim to keep asylum seekers on the Greek islands was to speed up their return to Turkey has resulted in appalling living conditions, violent border control practices and immense delays in asylum procedures," often making asylum impossible.

It noted that the families arriving on the islands often come from countries that have been at war for years, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In 2021, some 1,068 migrants arrived in Greece, including 566 via sea.


 

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