• Sophie Haaland Matláry

Merkel draws the shortest straw in negotiations with Erdogan

Originally published in Norwegian, in Dagens Næringsliv on the 20.02.2020: https://www.dn.no/innlegg/migrasjon/flyktningkrisen/merkel/merkel-trekker-det-korteste-straet/2-1-757214


The promising refugee-deal between Turkey and Germany has not lived up to its expectations

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan newly met in Ankara (January 2020) to discuss the future of their common migration agreement, which they established in 2016.






During the refugee crisis in Europe, almost 4 years ago, the EU and Turkey agreed on a migration-deal that would stop illegal migration to European countries, travelling through Turkey.

However, new data shows that a very small percentage of those that were to be returned from Europe have been returned – only 198 irregular migrants in 2019.


At the same time, the Turkish president claims that his country does not want to, or can allow for 3,6 million Syrian refugees to be resettled in Turkey. He does however, wish for them to be re-located to his so-called “safe haven” and newly created zone in Northern Syria. To this Merkel last week stated that “on behalf of Germany she supports the plan financially”, as it is a much needed humanitarian act - according to herself. It is important to note that the international environment has not accepted Erdogan's "annexation" of Northern Syria.


Ineffective return policies:

Still - Erdogan and Merkel need to talk to mare. For the analysis and policy making behind Merkel's 2016-agreement seems non-existing today: In fact, it has failed completely from a policy perspective, and Merkel is already in the process of supporting another policy failure, being Erdogan's new migration policy in the Mediterranean.


The European Commission has reported that out of the the 60,100 migrants that arrived in Greece and Turkey in 2019, 37,700 have been transferred to the mainland. This has then created extreme pressure on existing camps, and with it, inhumane conditions – something which the EU simply cannot ignore any longer.


German politician Thorsten Frei, responsible for migration, tells the German press that "the reason why the pressure is so extreme in Greece is because Turkey is not at all acting responsibly in preventing the refugees from moving out from Turkey".


The 2016 agreement was one of the short-term solutions that European countries quickly constructed. At the same time as panic spread in Germany, and Merkel had to find a policy solution to stay politically important to her voters, she got the policy idea of attempting ot quickly return thousands of migrants who were not granted asylum from Europe back to Turkey. The Turkish-German agreement was then hatched.


The "effective return" that was to supposed to happen never occurred. Today in 2020, it has still not happened because no one knows how to effectively return thousands of asylum seekers to their home countries outside Europe.


Libya and Italy: A success story

Since 2016, many European state leaders have attempted to create migration deal with non-western heads of state. One of the more “fruitful” ones, is the deal between the Italian government and Libya.


Italy, with its new government in place, just recently renewed its 2017 border agreement with Libya. This agreement has created inhumane conditions in refugee-prison camps in Libya – but the deal is very effective in keeping migrants out of Italy, even at the extreme cost of human lives, and a multitude of breaches of UN human rights conventions. The camps also create great profit and a rise in human trafficking for smugglers. People that used to work in the tourist industry in North-Africa can now work as human smugglers, and there is a lot more money to be earned there. Ironically, one of the reasons behind the failed 2016-deal, was to stop human trafficking business to operate in the Mediterranean and North-Africa.


Erdogan, the man Europe cannot tame, is not hesitant in threatening with opening the doors to Europe for all migrants. This in spite of the fact that Turkey has received 6 Billion Euros from the EU since 2016, to fix “the migration issue”. The money was supposed to work as a guarantee so that Turkey would take back all immigrants with no residency that had arrived to Europe through Turkey, and for each illegal migrant that was returned, a legal migrant from Syria should receive residency in one of the 28 member countries. However, in 2019 we can note that only 1995 Syrian refugees have been returned – and in the same period of time, the EU has given residency to 25.600 refugees from Syria, that arrived through Turkey. The deal has therefore completely been a policy failure.

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