The Blog

Turkey Agreement Refugees

Turkey announced last week that it would not block the crossing of refugees seeking to travel to Europe, in the face of escalating violence in northwestern Syria and the risk of a new influx of hundreds of thousands of people from the war-torn country across the southern border. Critics said the deal could force migrants determined to reach Europe to use other potentially more dangerous routes, such as travel between North Africa and Italy. Human rights groups are highly critical of the deal: Amnesty International accuses the EU of “turning its back on the global refugee crisis.” [48] A Chatham House document argued that the agreement, by over-meeting Erdogan`s demands, encouraged Turkey to make “more unilateral concessions in the future.” [49] One of the main problems that many human rights organizations have with the agreement is that Turkey does not meet the standards for welcoming refugees. In particular, many refugees cannot apply for asylum in Turkey and, while there, they do not have a quality standard of living. [51] In addition, refugees in Turkey are limited to certain areas where they are allowed to stay. In these areas, critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, is often lacking. [47] To counter the Syrian army`s advances, Ankara has increasingly supported Syrian rebels and brought its own troops and heavy machinery to the front from February 2020. Turkey wants to avoid a new influx of refugees at its borders, support its demand for a safe zone or buffer zone in the border region and consolidate its negotiating position in three territories on the Syrian territory it currently occupies. Following a dramatic escalation between Turkey and Syrian rebels, on the one hand, and the Syrian army, Russia, Iran and Iranian-led militias, Moscow and Ankara concluded a new ceasefire on 5 March 2020. The ceasefire applies to a narrow six-kilometre stretch of the M4 motorway linking the Syrian provincial capitals, Latakia and Aleppo.

Although the ceasefire has since led to a halt in airstrikes, the agreement is not considered permanent and does not resolve the conflicting interests of the actors involved. Implementation has also proved difficult. The agreement, which included a 6 billion euro commitment from Turkey in exchange for the control of European asylum seekers, undermined the fundamental values defended by the EU, while fuelling a dangerous narrative of populism. The remuneration of refugees and other migrants is also not a sustainable migration policy. Following the opening of the Turkish side of the border, which took place hours after dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed in Syrian government airstrikes, dramatic images of refugees trying to enter neighbouring Greece by sea and land – an EU member – have been widely circulated. To date, most of the EUR 6 billion pledged has been spent on education, health and humanitarian aid.