GP Insights # 283, 7 March 2020
More than 10,000 migrants mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, and other Middle Eastern countries have flocked to Turkey's land borders with the European Union (EU) countries. Thousands of migrants have gathered on the Turkish side of the border with Greece at Pazarkule, after a decision by Turkey to stop preventing them from reaching the European Union's outer border.
Greek authorities have responded with tear gas and blocked any new asylum requests for the next month. Since last Saturday, Greece has prevented around 32,423 migrants from coming into the country and arrested 231 people.
What is the background?
Nearly a million Syrians have fled to the Syrian-Turkish border since December amidst heavy fighting in the Idlib region between Turkish backed rebels and the Syrian government. Turkey has incurred heavy military loss in north-west Syria. Its disappointment over not receiving enough support from the EU on resettling refugees in a safe zone inside Syria has prompted Turkey to allow migrants to cross into EU borders.
Turkey's geographic location between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia makes it a strategic actor in terms of regional migration governance. Hosting nearly 3.7 million refugees, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan has made Turkey's crucial role even more evident. The restructuring of the Turkey migration policy, right from the 2016 EU-Turkey deal to the latest Turkey-Russia Ceasefire agreement points out to its non-linear evolutionary path.
EU and Germany have rejected from drawing any parallels to the ongoing migrant crisis with that of 2015. Germany's stance on helping the refugees in 2015 was necessary to avert the humanitarian crisis, but it realizes its mistakes in the way it was handled. Cross-border cooperation within the EU has improved, and it is better prepared to handle new arrivals up to a certain point. The distribution of migrants equally among member states of the EU remains a bone of contention.
Top EU officials have visited the Greek-Turkey border area. EU has reiterated its support to the Greek government, by offering financial help and sending more guards using the Frontex agency. It has also assured to increase the EU's presence on borders.
What does it mean?
First, the EU would want to prevent the repetition of the 2015-16 crisis when more than a million migrants entered the EU from Turkey. This would lead to a further drain in its resources, straining European security and welfare systems. Also, the member counties would not appreciate a change in their domestic politics based on migrants' issues. The rise of right-wing populism in recent years has gained popularity based on anti-migrant policies.
Second, though there were attempts made by the EU to come up with an EU-wide asylum policy, it could not garner much support and consent on the policy from its member counties. Greece and Italy have been the hot spot arrival points for the illegal migrants. With the ongoing crisis, Greece remains under more pressure. Therefore it is more likely to see a push for an EU-wide asylum Policy by such counties and reduce their burden.
Third, Instead of only looking at the influx of migrants into other countries, it is feasible to look at the larger picture of the migrant's issue by addressing the root cause. Finding solutions to the problems as to why people in large numbers flee their country and cross borders for their living can really be helpful.