Saturday

29th Apr 2017

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

  • Migrants in Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border are eligible for relocation and will not be sent back (Photo: Reuters)

The EU-Turkey deal, aiming to stop the flow of migrants into Europe via the Aegean Sea, came into effect on Sunday (20 March) but several outstanding legal issues and logistical challenges raise questions about how it would work in reality.

The deal under which the EU intends to return everyone, including Syrians, who arrives in Greece via smugglers, and resettle Syrian refugees directly from Turkey on a one-for-one basis, has not deterred migrants so far.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

According to Greek authorities, 1,662 people had arrived on Greek islands by Monday morning, twice the official count from the day before, Reuters reported.

Who will be returned?

“All irregular migrants will be returned, all asylum seekers will be allowed to lodge their claim,” an European Commission spokesman said Monday.

Everyone who has arrived on the Greek islands after Sunday, and does not apply for asylum in Greece or is not eligible for international protection, is considered an irregular migrant, and will be sent back.

Those claiming asylum, including Syrians, will also be sent back to Turkey, once Greek legislation is in place to deem Turkey a safe third country, which means it complies with the standards of the Geneva Convention on refugees and provides protection for those fleeing war.

When will returns and resettlement start?

Decisions on the “inadmissibility” of asylum claims will start from 28 March, once Greece has amended its asylum law to make Turkey a safe third country.

EU lawyers are on the ground in Athens to “help the government in drafting” the law, that would include appeal committees and appeal rights, officials have said.

Once the Greek legislation is in place, asylum procedures are expected to be “fast and fair”.

A commission spokesman, on Monday, did want to speculate on how fast the individual claims will be assessed but they are expected to take approximately one week.

Turkish officials have suggested however that returns can only start once the resettlement part of the scheme kicks in on 4 April, whereby EU countries start to take in people directly from Turkey.

Turkish legal tweaks?

Besides the revision of Greek asylum legislation, the EU is also counting on Turkey to make legal changes to ensure that the level of protection provided to nationalities other than Syrians is “equivalent in substance to that of the Geneva Convention” and that Syrians who are returned will get their rights back as refugees in Turkey.

EU officials said there is clear political commitment from the Turkish side to do so but it is unclear how Ankara will set up those safeguards.

EU officials also stressed that Kurds and other minorities, whose safety might be in danger in Turkey, will not be sent back.

“We are not returning people who can’t get protection in Turkey,” an official said.

Officials note that the EU will send people on the ground to monitor if international standards of protection for asylum seekers are being respected.

What will happen to those already in Greece?

Greek authorities say over 50,000 migrants are stranded in the country. They can apply for asylum in Greece and then apply to be part of the relocation scheme, a program to distribute refugees among EU members proportionally. But relocation is not an option for those arriving after 20 March.

How many people?

The EU Commission on Monday (21 March) proposed that the 54,000 “unused” places in the relocation scheme should be made available for the resettlement of Syrian refugees from Turkey.

In an effort to incentivise EU countries to participate in resettlement, member states that take in refugees from Turkey will be able to deduct those numbers from their relocation commitment, meaning they will not have to take in more people in total.

Based on previous commitments by member states, with the 54,000 included, up to 72,000 people can be resettled within the EU-Turkey deal.

EU officials are hoping the number of new arrivals will decrease quickly, and they will not need to use all 72,000 places.

But they also highlight that outside of the EU-Turkey deal, under a voluntary resettlement program, member states will take in more refugees, beyond the 72,000.

Logistics

Around 4,000 staff is required to make the EU-Turkey deal work in economically battered Greece.

Member states, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and Frontex, the EU’s border agency will contribute half of this, with EU countries already pledging 1,300 personnel.

Thirty judges will assist from other countries. 400 asylum experts and 400 interpreters will also be deployed.

The commission said 20 member states have so far offered asylum experts and police to support Greece with the implementation of the EU-Turkey plan.

The Greek army already provides food for migrants and is involved in setting up hotspots. Police officers will be in charge of security at reception centres.

The cost of the operation is estimated to be around €280 million over the next six months, which will come from the EU budget.

Greece struggles to launch EU-Turkey plan

Hundreds of migrants arrived on Greek islands over the weekend, as authorities scramble to implement a deal to send them swiftly back to Turkey.

EU and Turkey agree draft refugee plan

Under a draft deal that has yet to be endorsed by all EU and Turkish leaders, the return of migrants to Turkey will start next Monday. Turkey will not get the accession chapters and the additional money it demanded.

EU casts legal spell on Turkey pact

Turkey will only have to demonstrate "equivalent" level of safeguards to the Refugee Convention in order for Greece to send people back.

Interview

Turkey will not give in to EU on refugee laws

Turkey will not change its laws to appease EU demands to increase protection of asylum seekers and will refuse any oversight on how it applies its rules, its EU ambassador says.

EU stands aside as Hungary detains migrants

Commission is withholding action on Hungary's detention of asylum seekers, even as the Hungarian government tries to "stop Brussels" on immigration policy.

Austria wants out of EU migrant relocations

Austria is required to start relocating asylum seekers from Italy and Greece after an exemption to the scheme ended on 11 March. But Austria's chancellor has other ideas and wants the exemption prolonged.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  2. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  3. One year later: EU right to open Internet still virtual
  4. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  5. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  6. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending
  7. May accuses EU-27 of 'lining up against Britain'
  8. Resurrected Renzi to regain leadership of Italy's ruling party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  2. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  3. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  4. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTime to Turn the Tide and End Repression of Central Asia's Civil Society
  6. European Free AllianceAutonomia to Normalnosc - Poland Urged to Re-Grant Autonomy to Silesia
  7. UNICEFHitting Rock Bottom - How 2016 Became the Worst Year for #ChildrenofSyria
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  10. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  11. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  12. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved