EU-Turkey: a Disgraceful Deal

Over 400 people drowned off the coast of Libya on the 17-18 April. At the time of writing, the exact figure is unknown but what is clear is that it was the single largest tragedy in the Mediterranean over past 12 months.

Socialist Worker 389

EU-Turkey: a Disgraceful Deal

Over 400 people drowned off the coast of Libya on the 17-18 April. At the time of writing, the exact figure is unknown but what is clear is that it was the single largest tragedy in the Mediterranean over past 12 months.

This tragedy is an indictment of the European Union’s migration policies and a timely illustration of why the deal agreed with Turkey last week is shameful and will only exacerbate the regular tragedies we are now witnessing.

These people are fleeing war, extreme poverty and the catastrophic effects of climate change. Closing one route will simply lead migrants and refuges to take other, more dangerous routes.

We will see increased attempts by desperate families to reach Europe by sailing from the Libyan coast seeking to reach Italy and there have even been recent reports that Syrians have been travelling through the Arctic to reach Norway without having to pass through Fortress Europe.

Most activists working with refugees now fear that after agreeing the reprehensible deal with Turkey, the EU will now attempt to arrange a similar deal with the UN-brokered “national unity government” in Libya and seek to close off another route for migrants and refugees.

History

The EU has history in this regard as Italy pledged to pay Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan government €5 billion over 25 years, ostensibly as reparations for the Italian occupation of Libya in the 20th century, but primarily in return for Libya closing any route from North Africa to Europe. This deal was suspended in 2011 after the outbreak of the Libyan civil war but the EU-Turkey deal paves the way for a similar deal in future.

The United Nations, NGOs and activists have raised concerns about the legality of the EU-Turkey deal and whether it contravenes European and international law. The EU argues that Turkey is a “safe third country” and that “returning”, or more accurately, forcibly deporting, refugees to Turkey does not breach international law.

However, Turkey only applies the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees to people fleeing from Europe and only they are classed as “Convention Refugees”, and receive the full protections of international law.

Turkish law allows for others to be classed as “conditional refugees” while they await resettlement and these conditional refugees are not always granted access to the labour market. This leads to refugees not having crucial labour rights such as an entitlement to the minimum wage, and increased instances of minor refugees forced into child labour.

Syria

Turkey announced a scheme to allow access to the labour market for Syrians in January 2016 but it has yet to be worked out how this will work in practice and how employment discrimination can be avoided. Even more worryingly, Turkey has returned Syrians back to Syria violating the principle of non-refoulement – a principle of international law which forbids the rendering of a true victim of persecution to his or her persecutor.

We must object to this rotten deal. Our acting government has indicated its support for this deal but as we await the imminent formation of a new government, we must make it clear that the Irish people do not condone this agreement.

The water charges campaign has shown the power of that mass movements of people can yield over government decision making and our future government will only depart from the failed EU elite consensus when it fears that the unpopularity of its actions threatens its re-election.

Rather than seeking to close borders, we should seek to establish a greater number of safe and legal pathways for refugees to come to Europe. We must campaign for the government to increase the numbers of refugees that we pledge to take in resettlement programmes and argue for the wealthy European Union to open its borders for refugees rather than insisting that neighbouring Arab nations host the vast majority of refugees.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login