Hopes, doubts raised by EU’s migrant deal

The EU’s proposed deal with Turkey has raised serious legal doubts.

Wednesday March 9 2016

A Kurdish family from the Syrian city of Afrin arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos, on November 17, 2015, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. The EU’s proposed deal with Turkey is meant to finally ease the migration crisis that has caused chaos in Europe, but plans to send back all migrants arriving in Greece have raised serious legal doubts. PHOTO | BULENT KILIC |

A Kurdish family from the Syrian city of Afrin arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos, on November 17, 2015, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. The EU’s proposed deal with Turkey is meant to finally ease the migration crisis that has caused chaos in Europe, but plans to send back all migrants arriving in Greece have raised serious legal doubts. PHOTO | BULENT KILIC | AFP

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BRUSSELS, Tuesday

The EU’s proposed deal with Turkey is meant to finally ease the migration crisis that has caused chaos in Europe, but plans to send back all migrants arriving in Greece have raised serious legal doubts.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU President Donald Tusk were among a series of top officials to call the proposals backed by EU leaders at a summit on Monday a “game-changer”.

The key point is that Turkey, the main launching point for the more than one million migrants who have come to Europe since the start of 2015, has agreed to take back all migrants who land on the Greek islands.

Both sides say that this will “break the business model” of people smugglers who send migrants across the Mediterranean on flimsy boats - more than 4,000 refugees and migrants have died so far.

CONTROVESIAL PART OF DEAL

But the most controversial part of the deal is the “one-for-one” arrangement: for each Syrian refugee taken back by Turkey from Greece, the EU agrees to resettle one Syrian refugee from the camps on Turkish soil where 2.7 million Syrians currently live.

The hope is, if refugees know there is a mechanism by which they can be directly resettled from Turkey to Europe then they are less likely to attempt the perilous journey across the Aegean.

The resettlement places would be taken from an existing EU plan to resettle 22,000 Syrians from neighbouring countries (only 3,000 have been resettled so far) and from 54,000 unallocated places from a slow-moving EU plan to redistribute refugees from Greece and Italy (only around 800 relocations have so far taken place).

Critics of the plan immediately questioned whether it would meet EU and international law on the treatment of refugees, especially as Turkey is not a full signatory to the Geneva Convention on refugees.

LEGALITY OF PLAN

The UN refugee agency chief swiftly said that he was “deeply concerned” by any plan that involves the blanket deportation of refugees without respect to their individual cases.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker however insists that the plan is legal.

Despite that, several EU countries have voiced doubts that the scheme could be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights — even if that could take years to come to court.

Similar mass deportations of Tunisians from Italy in the past have been ruled illegal.

Rights group Amnesty International said that the EU-Turkey plan was a “death blow to the right to seek asylum”.

The UN children’s agency said that children represented 40 percent of arrivals in Greece.

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