Offensive strike in Syria’s Idlib province which has killed dozens of civilians has strained the EU-Turkey refugee deal because the assault has forced civilians to flee to other places, especially, Turkey.
“The offensive on Syria’s Idlib province is forcing thousands of civilians to flee, many of them to Turkey. Turkish President Erdogan has now warned that a deal on refugees with the EU is in jeopardy,” Deutsche Welle said.
Turkey and EU in 2016 agreed on a deal that intended to decrease the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. According to the deal, the EU promised the allocation of €6 billion in aid to Turkey to help migrants.
Turkey, which already hosts approximately 3.6 million Syrian refugees has frequently stated that Ankara can not handle another refugee wave from rebel-held Idlib, which is home to some three million people including many displaced by Syria’s civil war.
Turkey made a deal with Russia in September 2018 to prevent another wave of massive refugee flow from Idlib, which directed at securing a de-escalation zone in Idlib. However, the Syrian government troops launched an offensive in late April with air support from Moscow, saying that Turkey failed to fulfil its promises.
“Upcoming talks about the EU-Turkey refugee deal will not only potentially impact the lives of many Syrian refugees, but that if the agreement fails due to the EU’s shortcomings and if the bloc violates its own values, then there will be no one left to credibly stand up for the global refugee convention,” Deutsche Welle quoted sociologist and migration expert Gerald Knaus as saying.
What is the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal?
According to the European Parliament, “On 18 March 2016, the European Council and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of irregular migration via Turkey to Europe. According to the EU-Turkey Statement, all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey to the Greek islands and whose applications for asylum have been declared inadmissible should be returned to Turkey.
For this purpose, the EU and Turkey agreed that,
1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;
2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU;
3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;
5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements;
6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated €3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilize additional funding for the Facility up to an additional €3 billion by the end of 2018;
7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energized, with Chapter 33 opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.”
In response to the Idlib offensive, President Erdogan has warned of an imminent refugee crisis, similar to the one that happened in 2015. In response to this, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly has plans to visit Turkey in January 2020, even though official confirmation is awaited.