While Turkey and the EU have cooperated on the issue of migration within the framework of a bilateral agreement of March 18, 2016, the future of their collective policy is called into question with the possible flood of migrants from Afghanistan .
Turkey, a bridge between the Middle East and Europe, is the preferred transit route for migrants and refugees from the Middle East. Its unique geopolitical position makes the country a crucial part of the flow of migrants and refugees from the turbulent region.
The Middle East is home to one of the worst conflicts of the decade in Syria, and not far from the region is Afghanistan, another conflict zone. While Syria is the number one country, Afghanistan is the third country of origin for refugees in the world according to UNHCR data, and the flow of migrants and refugees to the region is not expected to decline anytime soon.
With the Taliban seizing power in Afghanistan, the world anxiously awaits the Afghans to attempt to leave the country once the Taliban loosens their grip on the country’s borders. It is feared that the exodus could degenerate into a new migratory crisis.
Turkey’s geopolitical and strategic importance in this area makes the country a key aspect of EU migration policy, although it is not an EU member country. Turkey, a candidate country for the EU since 1999, maintains close cooperation with the EU to control the flow of migrants and refugees from the East.
With the Turkey-EU Agreement of March 18, 2016, also known as the EU-Turkey Declaration, Turkey bore a substantial part of the influx of refugees that crippled Europe during the European refugee crisis.
In accordance with the obligations of the agreement, Turkey was hosting more than four million Syrian refugees, many of whom were on their way to Europe while the rest chose Turkey as their destination country.
How the EU violates migration policy
According to the agreement, the EU was to return the favor by expanding aid to refugees in Turkey and supporting Turkey in its efforts to strengthen the country’s capacity to tackle the refugee crisis, mainly through funding and strengthening institutional capacity. The agreement has helped reduce irregular immigration and improve the quality of aid to migrants.
The EU had also promised Turkey to update the Customs Union, lift the visa requirement for Turkish citizens traveling to the Schengen area and facilitate Turkey’s accession process under of the agreement.
The agreement also described a 1: 1 resettlement program, meaning that one Syrian refugee from Greece would resettle in Turkey for every refugee resettled in the EU. According to the Directorate General of Migration Management of Turkey, until September 16, 2021, 30,184 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the EU, compared to more than 4 million refugees in Turkey.
The EU has long been criticized for failing to live up to its part of the deal and for using Turkey as a buffer against refugees. Turkish citizens still do not benefit from promises such as the visa release, which was originally due to take place in July 2016.
Currently, the anticipation of an influx of Afghan refugees looms on the international scene. With the Turkey-EU deal still in place, the EU’s expectations of Turkey persist.
In an interview on September 7, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed that Turkey could no longer support an influx of migrants and that the Turkey-EU agreement of March 18, 2016 had to be revised. On September 15, President Erdogan also raised this issue in a conversation with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Turkish parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop, in a recent statement, reiterated this concern and criticized the EU for failing to deal with “sufficient numbers of migrants” and for holding back on its financial obligations.
Home to more refugees than any other country, Turkey reached a tipping point in its migration policy months ago. In April, President Erdogan discussed the need for a review of the agreement with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Charles Michel, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
Now it is the EU’s turn to act. However, according to Cavusoglu, the EU has used “delaying tactics” and has yet to react.
As the future of the EU-Turkey deal becomes increasingly uncertain, one thing is certain. If the EU is to keep the influx of refugees under control, it is necessary to recognize Turkey’s current position on migration and take appropriate action.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies