North Africa, West Asia

The Turkey–EU refugee deal and how to really solve 'the problem'

Unless there is mobilisation to provide a better life for those in underdeveloped parts of the world, the 'problem' of people's desire to migrate in search of a better life will persist.

Defne Gonenc
26 April 2016

Yorgos Karahalis/AP/Press Association. All rights reserved.Although the Turkey-EU agreement over refugees has attracted a global human rights outcry, the deal has been put into operation. The agreement is fraught with political, ethical, humanitarian and legal problems. While the refugees do not want to go back to Turkey and showcase this nolleity with their placards of “No Turkey”, Dikili society is also reluctant to see Dikili as a point of return for refugees.

Saluted by neither side, the agreement was signed by Turkish and European leaders in order to deter human trafficking. The official reasoning behind the agreement is to allow only those with official asylum applications to pass, while deterring others from risking their lives while crossing the Aegean Sea in inflatable boats.

As warm and fuzzy as the official humanitarian reasoning may sound, the deal is in fact about human trade. It is yet another shameful moment in history to watch Turkish and European 'leaders' seeing that they can legitimately decide the fate of millions of people without even consulting them. While discussing the applicability, justness and legal conformability of the agreement, very few actually considered what refugees want in their own life and why these people prefer one thing over another.

Syrian refugees are well aware that their homeland is in a desperate situation as they search for a new permanent home. Trying to escape in very perilous conditions, they are not risking their lives to travel to Europe only to leave the next day. They are in search of a new life, and this is quite understandable if one has some empathy.

According to Eurostat, the number of people seeking refugee status in Europe came close to 1.3 million in 2015. This represents only 0.2 percent of total EU population. The threat of an immense 'refugee wave' claimed by the politicians and big media corporations illustrates the piteous state of humanity today. Humans are afraid of humans, and they feel 'threatened' by each other’s existence. However, in most of these countries, it is possible to buy citizenship by 'investing' if one has the resources.

The mawkishness of this situation is reflected in negotiations between Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the EU officials Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Junker. During their talk, both sides humiliate and hold each other in contempt. They bargain using refugees as a threat, and trade them like cattle. Even putting aside the fact that Tusk and Junker openly revealed that the EU chose to postpone the announcement of Turkey’s progress report after the November elections, helping Erdoğan’s AKP, it is still impossible to solve any problem with the derogatory attitude of these so-called 'leaders'.

If this deal is considered legal, then the entire international legal system should question what legal means.

This agreement, regardless of how many countries have signed on, is not legal. If it is considered legal, then the entire international legal system should question what legal means. Even within today’s mostly unjust international law structure, the application of this agreement is problematic. Although Turkey has ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, it has a substantial restriction: Turkey grants refugee status only to Europeans. In addition, due to a change in domestic law in 2014, it offers temporary protection to Syrian nationals.

This limited ratification means that Turkey does not have to treat non-European refugees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and that non-Syrian refugees do not even have the few entitlements provided to Syrians. This is evident in the increasing arbitrary detention of Syrians in Turkey and physical violence against asylum-seekers both in Turkey and against those who try to cross the Turkish southern border. There is already news about Turkey sending back some of the asylum-seekers to their countries.

This shameful context is compounded by growing discontent among Turkish citizens towards Syrian refugees. The protest in Dikili against ships carrying refugees from Greece clearly illustrates this disgruntlement. It is also visible in some authors’ critiques of the agreement as "unjust,” since the agreement makes Turkey a detention camp and forces the country to welcome the bulk of the refugees.

While it is true that the agreement is unjust, it is unjust not for Turkey, but for refugees. Nobody has asked these people where they would like to live, what languages they want to learn, and what type of a future they desire while formulating this agreement. Under such conditions, the responsibility of Turkish citizens is to welcome the refugees in the best way possible while protesting against the injustice of the agreement.

Turkey has the capacity and the humanity to welcome all refugees if necessary, if they would like to stay there. Their choices reveal, however, that Turkey is not a preferred country due to its authoritarian regime, weak education system, unequal living conditions and insecure daily life. This gives Turkish citizens yet another reason to protest.

There are three ways to meaningfully deal with the inhumane situation of refugees, and the first two are quite easy to implement. The first is to immediately stop financing the civil war in Syria and all other wars around the world. The second is not to create any proxy wars ever again. The third and most permanent one is to address unequal living conditions in different parts of the world.

Unless there is mobilisation to provide a better life for those in underdeveloped parts of the world, the 'problem' of people's desire to migrate for a better life will always persist.

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