by: Dilara Shahani
This year, on March 18, the European Union created a deal with Turkey to lessen the chaos and disorganized mess of the refugee crisis. This hasty agreement was implemented in a time of panic as the numbers of illegally smuggled refugees skyrocketed. At the time, the main method to attain a legal, safe way to displace refugees was simple: For every one Syrian refugee who failed to find asylum in Greece deported to Turkey, a Syrian asylum seeker in Turkey will be relocated in Europe. The Turkish government would receive money to transfer the refugees, and if they held up their end of the deal, speed up the process of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. However, this simple solution comes with a list of circumstances and unanswered questions. For example, one of the rules being the vague term of “refugees” only applies to Syrians, excludes refugees like pakistanis or afghans. Furthermore, the relocation of asylum seekers in Europe faces the dilemma of which country would be willing to take in more refugees?
As refugees finally arrive on the shores of Greek islands, ready to be relocated in Europe, they are often held for months in the camps that are most accurately describes as prisons. Each individual must go through a series of interviews and assessments topped off with a long period of waiting to either be welcomed into Europe or sent back to poverty and war. One of the main camps “Vios” located on the island Chios was created to hold around a thousand refugees, but currently holds a population over the double the intended population. Another one of the terms of the EU-Turkey agreement to better the sanitation and safety of refugee camps has been swept aside despite humanitarian groups like the Human Rights Watch declaration of the inhumane conditions. Furthermore, the terrible conditions in the camp has led to what is trying to be prevented in the first place; Refugees who grow impatient with the lengthy wait for their relocation turn to smugglers, human traffickers, or even recruitment from ISIS. This same island refugees in Turkey were willing to risk their lives to reach now would do anything to escape anywhere else.
Furthermore, many refugees have realized the EU-Turkey agreement is not entirely enforceable, and have found in the desperation to control the oppressing number of refugees entering the already economically weak Greece that there are too many refugees to maintain in order. One of the regulations was to send back any illegal refugees who crossed the sea from Turkey into Europe, but implementation has been mostly absent. The European Union has been forced to turn a blind eye to maintain the agreement itself and receives criticism for ignoring Turkey’s persecution of freedom of expression, under the growing authoritarianism of Turkish President Erdogan. The EU treads on tricky water as Erdogan has complained of the insufficient amount of money received from the deal and threatened to release a massive group of refugees into Europe if the EU does not fulfill all of its requirements in the agreement to Erdogan’s liking.