Hassan Javed (Center for the Study of Democracy, Sofia, Bulgaria)
The 2016 EU-Turkey Statement and the succeeding 2021 Greek Joint Ministerial Decision have affected refugee ambitions to seek better lives in Europe. The former outlines procedures for returning irregular migrant arrivals from Greece to Turkey to stop the flow of irregular migration from Turkey to Europe and prevent in-transit deaths in the Aegean Sea; meanwhile, the latter has declared Turkey a safe third country, restricting European asylum eligibility for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As a result, the number of irregular refugees reaching the EU from the Aegean Sea and the Balkan Route has dropped significantly. Yet, on the other hand, the impact of these legal instruments on refugee safety has been criticized. Turkey has begun to renege on its responsibilities per the EU-Turkey Statement, leaving some refugees in limbo, while the EU has struggled to resettle enough refugees and provide them with safe, legal ways of entry. Meanwhile, the Joint Ministerial Decision does not consider how Syrian refugees face refoulement and xenophobic violence in Turkey, overlooking the threat to their lives and livelihoods. As such, this policy brief discusses what impacts the EU-Turkey Statement and the Joint Ministerial Decision have had since their implementation and how their negative consequences can be lessened through five policy recommendations, including placing Turkey under a European sanctions and monitoring mechanism, repealing the Joint Ministerial Decision to acknowledge the threats refugees face in Turkey, and activating the Voluntary Humanitarian Admissions Scheme to increase the number of resettled Syrian refugees.