Professor Cathryn Costello spoke on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, in a discussion on the proposed EU-Turkey deal to address the ongoing refugee crisis. Under the proposed deal, all new ‘irregular migrants’ crossing from Turkey into Greece will be returned to Turkey, and for each Syrian returned to Turkey, a Syrian refugee will be resettled in the EU. European leaders are today meeting with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmed Davutoğlu, to reach an agreement.
Regarding the legal practicalities of the proposed deal, Professor Costello firstly reinforced that fact that the people in question are primarily refugees not migrants, and stated that returning refugees “is only permissible under very, very limited circumstances – if the refugees enjoy full protections in the country to which they would be returned”. For this to happen, she said, “Turkey would have to make significant legal changes because although it offers protection to Syrians, it’s quite a flimsy, temporary status, and for non-Syrians (and we’re also talking about returning Afghans, Iraqis), they don’t enjoy formal statuses, so if it were to be legal it would require very significant legal changes, both in Turkey and in Greece on the procedural side.”
Aside from the legal difficulties, there is the question of whether the deal will actually deter people from making the journey to Greece. On this point, Professor Costello said, “I think the deterrence logic doesn’t hold when we’re really just talking about trying to close down one route, which is the Turkey to Greek islands route. There are other many more dangerous routes, like the Central Mediterranean one from Libya to Italy, and if more people start taking that route, more people will die. We know it’s the deadliest sea route in the world.”
She continued, “I think the hope is to open up very significant resettlement places. There is an international summit being convened by UNHCR on 30 March. There’s an autumn summit being convened by Obama linked to efforts at the UN General Assembly. Both of those are trying to open up very, very significant resettlement commitments, so that people would have hope that if they stayed in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan then there will be a resettlement prospect for them. But, unfortunately, the way the EU has manipulated the idea of resettlement in this deal, it doesn’t really support those international efforts.”
Listen to the programme here >>