The EU-Turkey understanding on refugees

With the refugee crisis, the European Union (EU) is facing its biggest struggle ever. Millions of people fleeing from turmoil, war and terrorism are seeking shelter in European countries. Many ofthose countries see it as their duty to help and sup‐ port those who are in dire need. But our capacities are being stretched to the full and we must therefore realise that this crisis will not be resolved without the help ofthe international community. One important partner is Turkey, a country that we share a long history with.

It is urgent to implement the JAC
The EU‐Turkeyloint Action Plan (JAC) was a major step forward in cooperation; its aim is to provide support for Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey and to manage migration in order to address the crisis created by the situation in Syria.
It was put in place when it became more than clear that neither the European Union nor any country could deal with this massive influx of people on its own. “Challenges are common and responses need to be coordinated”, stated the European Commission. At this point it is absolutely crucial to work hand in hand with Turkey to maintain a minimum of control overthe situation. It is enough to look at the map to understand why.

This agreement has not been implemented very weil so far. Three billion Euros have been promised to Turkey to help cover its costs far less than what it would cost the EU otherwise but that sum has not been forthcoming so far. ln return, Turkey has promised to give shelter to Syrians, but also to prevent “irregular migration flows to the EU“. Right now we are observing around 80,000 refugees, mainly from Aleppo, who are waiting at the Syrian-Turkish border to enter safer ground but who are left out in the cold without proper supplies with no hope of crossing the border any time soon. It is uncertain what will happen to the people already there and to those arriving in the future, as this will not be the end ofthe story, with Russia bombing village after village to clear a path through to Aleppo for Assad’s troops. This will force many more people to flee their homes in order to get their families to safety. This means that the problem facing Turkey and the EUwill only get worse.

The EUneeds better control of its borders
The EUhas to continue showing solidarity in accordance with the 1951Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and with the humanitarian values that all EUMember States have signed up to.
One major improvement that must be made is to ensure better control ofthe EU’s external borders. Borders need to be well protected so that we can make a distinction between refugees who are really entitled to enter and those who are not; this goes not only for the border with Turkey but for all the EU’s external borders. Turkey, due to its location, plays a crucial role in this matter. It is absolutely essential to stop illegal crossings ofthe border into Turkey, and Germany has already shown its willingness to support Turkey to make this happen. Turkey needs to improve its screening process at its borders so that illegal refugees cannot enter the EUafterwards. But one big problem we face is that sea borders are not quite as easy to control as land borders are. In the month of October 2015 alone, over zoo,ooo refugees arrived on the shores of Greece, mainly via Turkey. The numbers fell during wintertime but still remained extremely high, with 60,000 refugees arriving in January 2016. This is why NATO is now stepping in, trying to support the EU in this major task. Efforts are also being directed against traffickers, making money from the plight of refugees.

We must master the challenge together
The EUand its member states will deepen their cooperation with Turkey as the various talks between Jean‐Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu underline. Cooperation means that both sides must share re‐ sponsibility for the new Facility for Refugees in Turkey set up by the Commission in November 2015, for which the EUMember States agreed on the funding in early February 2016. The basic idea is to coordinate a new assistance package to support 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and to improve border con‐ trols. This effort will cost a total of three billion Euros over the next two years.The refugee crisis is an issue that challenges the EUand its Member States to a hitherto unprecedented degree. But if we look beyond our own noses we will see that we are not alone in this dilemma but are sharing it with a series of other countries that are equally eager to resolve it. We can only overcome this crisis by working together as an international community, by relying on each other. We must do this properly.

by Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the EPCommittee on Foreign Affairs, Brussels/Strasbourg