During the past seven years – ever since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011 – approximately five million Syrians have crossed into Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Many had hopes of moving on to EU countries.
The prospect of a deluge of refugees into EU countries gave way to a political crisis for their leaders, with anti-immigration sentiments soaring. This accompanied headlines on refugees losing their lives as they attempted to cross the Aegean Sea in hopes of a better future.
The European Council decided to take action and in March of 2016, announced that the EU and Turkey “had decided to end the irregular migration” and “break the business model of the smugglers” by offering “migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk”.
The EU was to pay six billion Euro to Turkey to help pay for emergency food and clothing, but also much-needed longer term solutions, hospitals, schools and employment opportunities, for the Syrians now trapped in Turkey. Turkey, in return, was to implement stricter policing of its land and sea borders with Europe to stop refugees entering.
In a piece they penned for theblacksea.eu Craig Shaw, Zeynep Şentek and Şebnem Arsu take a look at how this agreement between Turkey and The EU is faring.
According to Shaw, Şentek and Arsu, the ‘’key aspect of the arrangement failed very early on. Despite a 60 million Euro grant to the Turkish Migration Authority, the institution helping to implement the policy, in the two years since it was active, barely 1,200 refugees have been returned to Turkey from Greece. For its part, the EU has been lacklustre in this area, too – collectively, member states accepted only 12,000 refugees under the same programme during this time.’’
In the secret minutes of the Steering Committee meetings, which the Black Sea obtained, it is found that no member state raised the question of how to increase the resettlement of refugees to the EU from Turkey.
Two years into the implementation of this hard-fought agreement, the European Commission released a statement declaring it had “lived up to its commitment to deliver €3 billion for 2016 and 2017” and would now “mobilise an additional €3 billion for the next two years”.
However, in reality barely half of the first 26 long-term projects have taken off and many have not even properly begun.