This March, the European Union and Turkey signed a highly controversial plan to manage the inflow of refugees to Europe. According to the deal, Greece would send every migrant arriving illegally in Greece back to Turkey, and each illegal migrant would be exchanged for a refugee who had been approved through the proper channels.
This “One-in, one-out” model certainly seemed to deter refugees from making the journey to Greece, as the number of average daily arrivals to Greece after the deal have fallen to just 3% of what they were during the peak of 2016, when over 5,000 asylum seekers were arriving each day.
Many of the key humanitarian actors in the refugee crisis, including the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders, have protested the deal and refused to comply with its stipulations. Critics of the deal argue that the deal represents a violation of basic human rights, as refugee-processing hotspots are turned into unlawful detention centers, and already a large number of refugees are trapped indefinitely on the Greek islands as their cases are processed. Refugees are denied asylum and are sent back to Turkey, a country that cannot truly be called a “safe third country.” In addition to inadequate provisions for refugees, Turkey also has a record for sending refugees back into dangerous areas. In exchange for stemming the flow of refugees, the EU has promised Turkish citizens easier access to EU visas, which is a whole other controversy given Turkey’s human rights record and security concerns.
Irrespective of these concerns, this deal looks as if it will be short-lived anyway. Erdogan is raging at the EU for several reasons this week. The Turkish prime minister is not only infuriated at Germany’s decision to declare the Ottoman Turks’ 1915 attacks against the Armenians as a “genocide.” Erdogan has recalled his ambassador to Germany and threatened that “Turkey will stop being a barrier in front of the problems of Europe…We will leave you to your own worries.”
If the EU-Turkey deal falls apart, refugee arrivals in Europe are likely to spike back up. European leaders need a Plan B that hopefully gets its most powerful humanitarian allies back on board.