Will the New EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Work?
The first exchange of migrants took place today in the latest chapter of the refugee crisis.
On Monday, three boats, carrying a total of 197 people by The Guardian's account, crossed the Aegean Sea from Greece to Turkey. The migrants were being returned to Turkey as part of a major deal brokered between Turkish and EU leaders. To stem the influx of illegal migrants who are entering Greece, Turkey has agreed to take them back.
In return, EU countries have agreed to take in thousands of Syrian refugees who are currently in Turkey. It is a one-for-one exchange, theoretically, capped at a total of 72,000 people being transferred. In addition, Turkey will receive more money for refugee programs, lenient visa requirements for entering the EU, and a faster track toward getting its EU membership approved.
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According to EU authorities, all individuals who were ferried across to Turkey had already requested to leave voluntarily. In addition, they were mostly coming from Pakistan originally. Media reports say the whole process was mostly uneventful, getting completed hours ahead of schedule and with a handful of photographers on hand to capture it. The boats arrived in the Turkish city of Dikili and, from there, migrants will be sent to the area where they first registered their arrival.
Meanwhile, two planes, each carrying 16 Syrian refugees, landed in Hanover, Germany. Another plane, with 11 Syrians onboard, arrived in Finland.
Although this exchange went relatively smoothly, there is much concern over how the program will unfold. Human rights groups and protestors have loudly criticized the plan, saying wealthier EU countries need to do more to help the crisis. Baran Doğan, a refugee rights worker in Turkey called out Turkish and EU leaders for using migrants for political and economic gain. He told The Guardian, "This is the bargaining and bartering of human bodies – it's treating humans as goods."
The EU-Turkey deal was struck this past March, as Europe faces the most severe humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. In 2015, more than one million people sought refuge in the EU.
Top photo: Migrants are escorted by Turkish police officers as they arrive in the Turkish coastal town of Dikili, Turkey, April 4, 2016.