The EU-Turkey Refugee Deal: Failure, Success or Betrayal of European Values?


The EU-Turkey agreement on how to ‘end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU’ entered into force on 20 March. The agreement was immediately called immoral by many critics who emphasised that the European Union had spent several decades preaching its own high asylum standards to other countries whereas now it has come under pressure by an unprecedented high arrival of refugees seems to be all too ready to betray its own principles.

In the meantime the ‘refugee deal’ has been challenged at the European Court of Justice by three refugees and recently Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) refused further EU funding as a protest against the ‘continuing attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores’. Human rights groups have accused Turkey (that with 3.1 million registered refugees hosts the largest number of refugees in the world) of deporting refugees to unsafe countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The EU maintains that the deal is perfectly legal and respects the refugee laws and the principle of non-refoulement.

What are the effects of the three months-old agreement on Turkey, on Europe and on the refugees? Will the agreement collapse in case the visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens cannot be achieved? Will the refugees pay the price for the growing tensions between Brussels and Ankara?

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Date of Publication
September 2016
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
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