The European Union and Turkey reached a landmark deal Tuesday on refugee resettlement over the next few years with the hopes of slowing down the influx.
The deal is designed to be a “one-for-one” exchange. Greece will send refugees captured at sea to Turkey in exchange for Syrians using legal means to get to Europe. EU is hoping this will curb the influx and deter economic migrants from trying in the first place.
“By doing what we are intending to do, we will break the business model of smugglers exploiting human misery and make clear that the only viable way to come to Europe is through legal channels,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “There will be no longer an incentive for Syrians to pay criminals to smuggle them across the Aegean. Doing so will not only land you back in Turkey but will put you on the bottom of the list for resettlement.”
Turkey is currently holding 2.7 million Syrian refugees. The Turks have used the high number and Europe’s desperation to curb the influx as leverage in its negotiations for an EU membership. Turkey will get $3.3 billion in aid and acceleration toward visa-free travel within EU as part of the deal. President Tayyip Erdogan recently threatened to “open the floodgates” and put refugees on buses to Europe if these conditions weren’t met.
A question still remaining is where new arrivals will end up and whether or not they have a fair chance at getting asylum in Europe at this point. Hundreds of thousands of refugees will get deported from Europe over the next few years, a process there currently is no outline for.
The deal was met with opposition from several countries, including Hungary which threatened to veto it. Czech President Milos Zeman put forth an alternative idea “to kill two birds with one stone.”
“Detention centers would be built on Greek islands to where migrants from Europe would be deported,” he said, “and Greece would, by maintaining these detention centers, pay its otherwise uncollectible foreign debt.”
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