Anneliese Dodds MEP

The South East's Voice in Europe

Human rights can’t be traded away in negotiations with Turkey

Yesterday some details emerged of the tentative deal struck between the EU and Turkey at a European Summit in Brussels.

With elections upcoming across Europe and now the UK referendum on the horizon, Turkey saw an opportunity to surprise EU leaders when they had to leave negotiations with a tangible outcome.

Having worked hard to secure what he thought was a draft agreement before the summit, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, had a swathe of extra Turkish demands presented to him at the last minute.

It’ll be over a week before the final action plan is released at the Council meeting on the 17 March. But from the existing details of the deal that have emerged, the EU needs to beware of trading away human rights in exchange for making the Syrian refugee crisis Turkey’s problem.

In exchange for sending Turkey €6bn, the EU will be conducting mass deportations of ‘irregular’ refugees on a one-in one-out basis. For each ‘irregular’ refugee Greece sends back to Turkey, Europe will receive one ‘regular’ refugee who has been processed through the proper asylum channels.

The idea behind this exchange is to stem the flow of refugees in a more strategic manner and dissuade people from making the illegal and dangerous journey across the Aegean Sea.

Of course, it is not quite that simple. In addition to the exchange process and the extra finance, Turkey has also demanded that the visa process for its citizens be removed by June 2016, a request which they have long fought for.

There’s also the small matter of speeding up the stalled ascension process of a state whose government just last week seized control of its largest opposition media outlet.  

No one can argue against the importance of reaching an international solution to the migration crisis and Turkey will always be an important part of that solution.

But it is essential that any money that is provided to Turkey is used to properly house, feed and clothe the refugees waiting for asylum. This means proper EU oversight and stipulations of what will happen if these conditions are not met, including for Kurdish refugees.

Above all, while any deal which reduces the power of unscrupulous people smugglers can be welcomed, it must not distract EU leaders from trying to solve the reasons why people are attempting to leave their home countries in the first place: conflict and insecurity in Syria and Afghanistan and appalling human rights abuses in Eritrea. 

Until these problems are dealt with, we will continue to see an enormous flow of desperate people fleeing war and persecution.

Originally featured on Left Foot Forward (09/03/2016)

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