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New Reports Argue the 2016 EU Turkey Refugee Deal Is A Failure

Two years have passed since Turkey and the European Union signed a refugee deal meant to help Turkey handle the flow of thousands of Syrian refugees arriving at their borders. Is it a success or humanitarian failure?

On March 18, 2016, the European Union (EU) and Turkey signed a refugee deal, which aimed to tackle the uncontrolled influx of refugees.

Under the agreement, all Syrian immigrants arriving illegally in the Greek islands would be sent back to Turkey should they not formally request asylum or if their asylum request is rejected. The deal stated that the EU promised to provide $7.3 billion in aid to Turkey to help stranded migrants, with Turkey committing to increase security along its borders.

Aside from offering financial aid to help immigrants, Brussels also provided Turkey with fast-track EU membership talks and a chance to apply for Turkish citizens to travel Visa-free across the EU.

From the German government’s point of view, the deal was a joint success for both Turkey and the EU. “For the German government, this is a joint success, both for Europe and for Turkey,” stated Berlin administration spokesman Steffen Siebert.

“After this agreement, far fewer people died in the Aegean Sea while trying to enter Greece,” Siebert said. “As for the second important outcome of the agreement, the living conditions of more than two million refugees in Turkey, most of whom are Syrians, have significantly improved through various projects backed by the EU’s financial assistance.”

But the deal has its flaws

Germany and the EU may hail the agreement as a success, but human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International slammed the deal as a failure.

Critics of the deal argue it fails to deal with the issue of immigrants being trapped in uncertainty. Two years after the agreement, around 10,000 asylum seekers are still desperately stuck in a government-run shelter in the Greek islands. They cannot leave due to restrictions imposed by the deal.

The situation in refugee camps is not any better. Refugees are prone to severe illnesses due to overcrowded shelters. According to the Greek authority, 2,400 refugees are occupying Vathy camp, which has a capacity of only 700 people.

Sadly, countries across Eastern Europe sealed their borders after the policy took place, preventing refugees from continuing to use the “Western Balkan routes.”

Some 12,500 immigrants have landed in the EU countries from Turkey since the implementation of the agreement, but only 2,100 illegal immigrants have been returned to Turkey during the same period due to Greece’s slow procedure.

Turkey accused the bloc of breaking its promise

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that his administration plans to ask for the remaining $3.6 billion for Syrian refugees. He will state his request in the meeting with the bloc in Bulgaria next week. The EU previously allocated  the $3.6 billion as a part of the 2016 agreement to contain the uncontrolled migration.

The EU and Turkey have different plans on how to use the funds. The funds have to be monitored by the EU, but Turkey needs everything as quickly as possible to address the needs of refugees.

The future of Syrians is the main priority

UN data showed that there are 2.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, though the Turkish authority claimed the figure recently soared to 3.5 million.

The future of Syrians should be Turkey’s priority. According to asylum policy expert Yavcan, Syrian refugees need to learn a new language and get a job in order to succeed. She stated that only 20,000 Syrians have work permits and at least 800,000 Syrian refugees work illegally.

Migration is not merely a problem for Turkey, but also the EU member countries. The EU needs a comprehensive solution that can tackle the inflow of refugees. An efficient bureaucracy is important to ensure the fate of asylum seekers and immigrants.

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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