On 18 March, the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan activated on 29 November 2015, and the 7 March EU-Turkey statement, the European Union, and Turkey decided to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU.
The EU and Turkey agreed that:
1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey (The migrants in Greece with those who do not qualify for asylum or have withdrawn their asylum applications. They can be returned to Turkey, which is considered a safe third country by the EU)
2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU. (According to the deal, for every individual migrant sent to Turkey from Greece, the Turkish authorities would send a refugee in Turkey to the EU. As of February 27 of this year, 3,565 refugees had been resettled to the EU under that arrangement.)
3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated
5) The fulfillment of the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfill the remaining requirements (Turkish passport holders had also been promised entry into the Schengen area without visas in a process called visa liberalization. One EU source said it was highly unlikely that 79 million Turks would be granted visa-free travel immediately and suggested that a compromise could be found, with the arrangement offered first to specific groups, such as students, business people and those with biometric passports that meet EU standards.)
6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilize additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion by the end of 2018. (As of March 2017, only 750 million of the €3 billion promised has been dispursed).
7) The accession process will be re-energized, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace. (Turkey hopes the deal would reopen discussions for the country to accede into the EU, but Turkey’s deteriorating human rights record has made European authorities skeptical of taking steps forward in Turkey’s accession in the EU and providing Turkish nationals visa-free access to the 26-nation Schengen area)
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.
On what legal basis will irregular migrants be returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?
People who do not have a right to international protection will be immediately returned to Turkey. The legal framework for these returns is the bilateral readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey. From 1 June 2016, this will be succeeded by the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, following the entry into force of the provisions on readmission of third-country nationals of this agreement. (Greece hasn’t deported as many migrants as expected, which means migrants heading there aren’t as afraid of being sent back. Thousands of refugees remain on Lesbos and other Greek islands)
On what legal basis will asylum seekers be returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?
People who apply for asylum in Greece will have their applications treated on a case by case basis, in line with EU and international law requirements and the principle of non-refoulement (the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution.) There will be individual interviews, individual assessments, and rights of appeal. There will be no blanket and no automatic returns of asylum seekers.
The EU asylum rules allow the Member States in certain clearly defined circumstances to declare an application “inadmissible,” that is to say, to reject the application without examining the substance.
There are two legal possibilities that could be envisaged for declaring asylum applications inadmissible, in relation to Turkey:
1) First country of asylum (Article 35 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has been already recognized as a refugee in that country or otherwise enjoys sufficient protection there
2) Safe third country (Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has not already received protection in the third country, but the third country can guarantee effective access to protection to the readmitted person.
Where will migrants be accommodated whilst they await return?
Irregular migrants may be held in closed reception centers on the Greek islands, subject to EU legislation. Asylum seekers will be accommodated in open reception centers on the Greek islands. ( Appalling conditions on the Greek islands and the mainland were especially clear and acute this winter, with images of people sleeping in tents in the snow and children living in poor hygiene areas. The lack of a humane and organized response to the situation of asylum-seekers and migrants in Greece, by all of the actors involved, is all the more inexcusable given the hundreds of millions of Euros provided by the EU to the Greek government for humanitarian assistance.)
How can you be sure that people will be given protection in Turkey?
Only asylum seekers that will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement will be returned to Turkey.
The EU will speed up the disbursement of funds from the €3 billion Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This funding will support Syrians in Turkey by providing access to food, shelter, education, and healthcare. An additional €3 billion will be made available after this money is used to the full, up to the end of 2018.
What operational support will Greece need in order to implement the scheme?
Implementation will require huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. The EU Member States agreed to provide Greece at short notice with the necessary means, including border guards, asylum experts, and interpreters.
RESULTS OF THE DEAL
While EU leaders have presented the policy as a success, because they point out the decrease in large numbers of sea arrivals, since the deal in March 2016 it is important to mention the thousands of individuals in horrible conditions on the Aegean islands.
Arrivals to the Greek islands in the first part of 2016 were around 150,000. Following the implementation of the deal, the number dropped to 20,000. However, while the deal may have stemmed the flow of refugees, some elements, not at all related to the human rights of the refugee, remain extremely contentious. A new report from Amnesty International entitled “The EU-Turkey deal: Europe’s year of shame” bashes Europe on its decision to outsource the “problem” Turkey to take care of the refugee crisis.