The aims for a strategic partnership between Turkey and EU are easy to understand: to stabilize the situation and to reduce refugee smuggling through dangerous sea routes. Depending on how the partnership is implemented, it may improve the stability of the entire region.
However, as long as chaos in the Middle East continues, people will need shelter from violence and impossible conditions. Their basic needs and human rights need to be looked after, whatever deals we strike in our summits.
The EU-Turkey agreement has been widely and strongly criticized and also condemned by human rights organizations.
Turkey has already received several million displaced people, more than any single country within the Union. In any country that suddenly has to deal with the needs of so many refugees, there would be valid and genuine concerns about the human rights of refugees. Turkey needs our help and assistance in this situation.
The legality of the arrangements from the standpoint of international law has been called into question. This is a serious concern that should be considered in the European Court of Justice.
The European Court of Human Rights should also be active in the matter.
Despite its name, the agreement is in the form of a statement. It is not a legally binding document. Besides its endorsement by the summit.
This emphasizes the requirement for international organizations to monitor the agreement closely, especially its safeguards for human rights. Each country must be vigilant to honour its commitments.
It is vital to respect each individual’s right to seek asylum. For example, the collective expulsions of refugees threaten the fulfilment of basic human rights.
It is understandable that countries wish to accelerate the asylum procedures. However, streamlining of processes cannot come at the cost of civilized treatment of asylum seekers.
There are also issues with the so-called Hotspots. They should not become detention centres, and forced return should not be prioritised over access to protection and asylum.
Blanket forced returns of so-called “irregular migrants” offer only temporary relief to EU states, and they do not deal with the root problems of this crisis.
EU needs a union wide system based on a fair and binding allocation of asylum seekers, based on objective criteria.
On the whole, the EU-Turkey agreement cannot by itself offer a permanent, comprehensive solution. Already, we see that people are seeking other routes to Europe.
The only effective way to deal with the root issue is to offer refugees a reasonable, safe and legal possibility to seek asylum.
This would require humanitarian assistance, high scale resettlement programmes, the issuing of humanitarian and family visas and the creation of other avenues, including family reunification.
The secretary general of COE has reminded that even though the situation is challenging, we cannot abandon our core values of humanity. This is the message we must remember and take home to our goverments.