The EU and Turkey have agreed a deal with the primary goal of ending irregular migration between Turkey and EU, via Greece.
The deal agrees the following:
- As of 20th March 2016, all irregular migrants arriving on the Greek Islands from Turkey will be returned from whence they came.
- For every Syrian returned to Turkey, one Syrian will be resettled in the EU.
- The Turkish government will take all necessary measures to prevent new routes emerging.
In return, the EU will accelerate the road map towards Turkish nationals having visa free access to the Schengen zone as well as disburse the €3 billion initially agreed in funding for Turkey to support Syrians resident in Syria and provide a further €3 billion in funding. Finally, Turkey’s accession process is to be ‘reenergised’.
It is claimed that the deal is in full accordance with international and EU law which require that:
- Individuals have the right to claim asylum and have their claim assessed on an individual basis.
- States must respect the principle of non-refoulement, that is that no individual who has lodged an application for asylum can be returned to a country where they fear persecution.
- All applicants have the right to appeal a refusal of their asylum application (this is a component of EU law but not international law).
Although individuals will have the legal right to lodge an application for asylum, applications from irregular migrants arriving in Greece will be declared inadmissible on the following two grounds:
- an applicant has been recognised as a refugee in another state (including a non-Member State) and can avail themselves of the protection of that country, or that they have enjoyed sufficient protection in another state and benefit from the principle of non-refoulement. This is known as the ‘concept of first country of asylum’ (see Article 35 of the Asylum Procedures Directive).
- an applicant has a connection with a third country deemed ‘safe’ in domestic legislation and it is reasonable for that person to return to that country where their life and liberty are not at risk on grounds of race, ethnicity, religion etc., there is no risk of harm (as per EU Directive 2011/95/EU) and that the principle of non-refoulement is respected. This known as the ‘concept of safe third country’ (See Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive).
Where an application is considered inadmissible on one of the above two grounds there is no requirement to assess whether the applicant qualifies for international protection (See Article 33 of the Asylum Procedures Directive).
The deal also allows applicants to appeal a decision of inadmissibility and therefore respects Article 26 of another EU Directive (Directive 2013/33/EU on minimum standards) requiring a right of appeal. It is possible that applicants will claim that they are suffering persecution in Turkey although it is likely that Turkish assurances that Syrians in Turkey will be afforded protection would mean that an appeal would be unlikely to be successful.
The issue therefore is whether the deal can be made to work from an administrative perspective. According to the UNHCR, in the month to 17th March, 1,150 people were arriving daily on the Greek Islands from Turkey. Arrivals on this scale will require significant administrative capacity to process. The EU Commission has estimated that Greece needs around 4,000 people to carry out the functions of this deal including:
* Asylum processing – 200 Greek asylum processing personnel and 400 asylum experts from other EU member states as well as 200 interpreters
* Appeals process – 10 Appeals Committees to be made up of 30 Greek judges and 30 judges from other member states as well as 30 interpreters.
* Returns process – 25 Greek readmission officers, 250 Greek police officers as well as 50 return experts deployed by Frontex. 1,500 police officers seconded on the basis of bilateral police cooperation arrangements
* Security – 1,000 security personnel.
* For transport – 8 Frontex vessels with a capacity for 400 people and 28 buses
* Accommodation – Spaces for 20,000 to be accommodated on the Greek Islands (just 6,000 exist at present)
One final issue, which the deal does not address, is where Syrians will be resettled in the EU. Resettlements are due to begin in April however there does not appear to be an agreement yet on how and where Syrians will be resettled in the EU.
Fact Sheet on the EU Turkey Agreement: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-963_en.htm
Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 on Common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection (recast): http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/txt/pdf/?uri=celex:32013l0032&from=en
Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013
laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast): http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/txt/pdf/?uri=celex:32013l0033&from=en
UNHCR on Arrivals in Greece: http://data.unhcr.org/mediterranean/country.php?id=83