Refugees stranded at the Greek-Turkish land border and blocked by a hastily built wall have become the symbol of a crisis that has deeply shaken relations between Greece and Turkey. Athens has repeatedly denounced what it calls Turkey’s “unacceptable” behavior, and lack of cooperation in the face of the massive migrant flows toward Europe.
Based on the EU-Turkey deal of 2016, Greece, which is part of Europe, sends incoming irregular migrants to Turkey instead. In exchange, Turkey will receive €6 billion in aid from the EU for its migrant communities. Moreover, Turkey has increased its measures to prevent illegal migration. It’s clear as day that this agreement is a political strategy that benefits EU countries; however, it compromises refugees’ rights, hence, the backlash. Despite the criticisms, it still moved forward.
Since the agreement between the EU and Turkey, the latter tried its best to prevent the influx of illegal migrations. However, over the years, there have been accusations that the promised funding to support the millions of refugees in Turkey wasn’t given.
Turkey’s President Erdogan announced the opening of the Greek-Turkish border. Following the announcement, hundreds of refugees rushed towards the border to gain access to the EU.
Turkey’s move to open the borders may be its way to pressure the EU to cooperate. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of migrants, where they were pushed back violently by the Greek border security.
The Greek Migration Minister, Notis Mitarakis, responded to the influx of immigrants to the border by introducing migration legislation to accelerate deportations. There were concerning clauses on the country’s new stance on migration that is being heavily scrutinized globally.
Due to the new law, the border is loaded with the military, migrants are detained in poor conditions, and the grace period for voluntary deportations has been drastically shortened from 30 days to a week. Furthermore, the border police were given the right to deport migrants under the jurisdiction of migrant authorities.
Despite the international criticisms, Mitarakis remains firm in his stance and reiterates that Greece will not be the gateway to Europe.
The EU has sparked tension between Turkey and Greece while putting the lives of immigrants at risk. Moreover, the EU has failed to maintain the conditions in their deal with Turkey that have put so many human lives at risk. Aside from this, Greece will have to face severe backlash due to its migration policy. There are also questions about the funding it received from the EU and its use.
Indeed, the EU has manufactured a crisis between Greece and Turkey that could have been prevented. After all, the EU-Turkey agreement was only meant to be a temporary solution, yet it’s no excuse for the current human rights violations.
Member states, EU institutions, and Turkey should work on a compromise to prioritize the rights of the refugees and build an asylum system that works.
Crisis makes strange bedfellows, and the refugee crisis has made an awkward tension between Greece and Turkey. Though they’re both geographically part of Europe and their languages are mutually intelligible, their cultural ties to the West and Asia, respectively, leave them on opposite sides of this growing divide. For Greece, it’s not necessarily a question of escaping the rising tide of refugees but whether to continue holding up one half of a bridge to Western Europe.
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