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EU-Turkey Deal – More of the same ?

 
In my opinion, when you consider the refugee crisis, legal and moral obligations should be your guiding principles.
So for me, in simple terms, I respect the legal right of others to seek asylum and morally I believe, that to do anything other than hold out your hand to those in trouble, lacks basic human decency. But I am only one citizen of Europe, how do others think?  
Firstly, the legal bit:
“No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (The European convention on Human Rights, Article 3).
Then the disregard for the legal bit:
Greek migration minister Ioannis Mouzalas has revealed that a Belgian minister suggested Greece should “push” refugee boats “back into the sea” to help solve the migration crisis on the country’s shores during a meeting in Amsterdam.Mouzalas told Newsnight that the minister said, “Just push [refugees] back into the sea. The Belgian said ‘go against the law. I do not care if it’s illegal. Just push them back’,”
 (http://sputniknews.com/europe/20160127/1033796242/greece-refugee-crisis.html)
Followed by the Human decency bit: from Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister (Remember him, the ageing rock star look, the biker jacket and a wife who is rumored to be the inspiration for the Pulp song Common People)
“Look let’s be clear on this. When, in the middle of the night, somebody knocks on your door and they are flooded, they are wet, they are desperately frightened. What do you do, as a moral person, is you open the door and you let them in. And any other discussion flies in the face of basic humanism.”
And finally the populist far-right bit: from Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban who “has described the refugees entering Europe as “looking like an army” as he defended his hard-line stance against migrants.
Speaking at a gathering in Madrid of conservative parties from across the continent, Orban said: “What he have been facing is not a refugee crisis. “This is a migratory movement composed of economic migrants, refugees and also foreign fighters. This is an uncontrolled and unregulated process,”
(http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/23/refugees-look-like-an-army-says-hungarian-pm-viktor-orban)
 If there one thing that bugs Virtuous Vik, its processes that are uncontrolled and unregulated, so much so that The Mapping Media Freedom project, which identifies threats, violations and limitations faced by members of the press throughout the European Union  has recorded 129 verified incidents of press harassment by government   in Hungary since May 2014. To me, these 4 snippets  sums up the European Union response to the Refugee crisis, indecisiveness in whether it should obey or disregard its own (an indeed International) law and politically and morally stuck between showing some basic human decency or appealing to far right , populist , xenophobic keyboard warrior sentiment . But what of the deal proposed this week between the EU and Turkey? How does it look legally and politically?  
Legally
A bad start, as the proposals mooted in this week’s talks to send back refugees en masse from the Eu to Turkey is a bit illegal. “The collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention of Human Rights. An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country, is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law.” (Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Europe regional director) 
 
Oops, however maybe such a disregard for international law may appeal to the caring Belgian Minister, who wanted the Greeks to throw people into the sea. I can’t decide what to send this minister for Christmas
 a)    A copy of the European convention on Human Rights
 b)    Or a history book about World Wars 1 & 2 and how people from other nations came to the aid of the Belgians in their time of deep crisis. 
I don’t wish to get bogged down in the legal implications of the proposed deal, as I fear I will become like Viktor and get obsessed about processes and regulation. Speaking of Viktor, here is one final nugget “Migration is seen as an opportunity … All indications and experience suggest that the overwhelming majority of these migrants will vote for the left once they become citizens, so future leftist voters are being imported to Europe,”. First refugees were an army of foreign fighters, now they are an army of leftists. Next month prepare for an army of environmentalists, the month after an army of feminists.
Politically and morally
All joking aside (I may return to Viktor in future articles), this proposed deal is consistent with the EU response to the crisis so far. Disjointed, lacking unity and with notable exceptions (Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden) lacking in basic human compassion has been the stock response to date. The proposed deal has many flaws and raises many questions
  1. Will people sent back to Turkey have their Asylum requests heard there or will they be left to rot in camps?
  2. Is Turkey a safe country to return Asylum seekers to, given its own dubious human rights record?
  3. If the EU couldn’t manage its relocation plan from Greece last year, what makes Turkey so different?
  4. Will the billions of Euros heading Turkeys way, be spent on the refugee camps?
  5. What happens to those who refuse to return to Turkey?
  Politics is the art of persuasion, a point lost on the majority of EU leaders, who rather than attempt to persuade their domestic audience that compassion for others in their time of need should be part of our shared European values, have taken the easy route and left us with fences, walls, refugee swaps and talk of throwing people into the sea. Even Angela Merkel, who up until this point has shown tremendous political courage in her handling of the crisis, has backed this proposed deal. A deal which compromises human rights and refugee law principles for the sake of appeasing the far-right.   This proposed deal is flawed, most likely illegal and most definitely lacking in compassion. It is time for Europe’s leaders to show some unity, this unity must be backed up by political will and the courage not to appease far-right populist sentiment. But to come up with solutions to the crisis that are legally sound and morally correct. If they fail, history will not judge them kindly.
 Robert King Fundraising & Development Officer

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