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16 June, 2024
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Irregular immigration, the responsibilities of Turkey and the EU

Ankara is obliged under its agreement with the EU, and from the 9 billion euros received from European taxpayers, to host 3.7 million Syrian refugees on Turkish soil

Pavlos Xanthoulis

Pavlos Xanthoulis

"Turkey will take all necessary measures to prevent the opening of new sea or land routes of irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and will cooperate in this regard with neighboring countries as well as the EU." This phrase is not a request by Nikos Nouris, or is it wishful thinking on the part of Cyprus and Greece, it is paragraph 3, of the agreement reached between the EU and Turkey in the "Joint Declaration" of 18 March 2016.  Therefore, it is an obligation of Ankara, which has so far received some 9 billion euros from European taxpayers, including Cypriots (through the European budget) and Greeks, for hosting 3.7 million Syrian refugees on Turkish soil.

However, not only is Turkey not taking the "necessary measures to prevent the opening of new sea or land routes for irregular migration", but instead, as a classified document from the EU security services reveals, it is attempting to cause a demographic change in Cyprus through the channelling of irregular migrants, with all that this entails. Besides, EU figures show that the Republic of Cyprus is breaking one negative record after another and that it is the first in terms of asylum applications (in proportion to population) in the whole of Europe. This should be acknowledged along with the admission by the EU services that the bulk of irregular migrants is channelled into the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus through the Green Line and the black hole that is the occupied area. Besides, both Nicosia and Athens have repeatedly denounced Turkey for instrumentalizing refugees and migrants, with the Greek government having been forced a few days ago to decide to reinforce the "fence" on Evros in order to shield its borders.

Turkey received 9 billion euros from EU taxpayers, including Cyprus and Greece, to host millions of Syrian refugees within their country and to keep them from crossing into EU territory.

However, the complaints do not deter Ankara, which unfortunately considers that it can violate the "Joint Declaration" with the EU without any consequence. And this is precisely where the responsibility lies with the Commission, which was lax and launched sanctions only against Belarus for the instrumentalization of refugees and migrants. But in the case of Turkey, it is content with making verbal suggestions, which, as a result, are deemed inadequate. The responsible Commission Vice-President, the Greek Commissioner Margaritis Schinas, had promised a few months ago that he would raise with the Turkish authorities the issue of irregular flows channelled into Cyprus. We know neither the tone nor the style of Schinas' interventions toward the Turkish state. What we do know for sure is that since then the flows have continued to increase in the territory controlled by the Republic of Cyprus and that asylum applications exceed 1,500 per month, with the result that by July 2022 they will reach 14,000, a number that exceeds the total number of asylum applications submitted during the whole of 2021.

All this, which is not disputed and has been communicated to the relevant EU agencies, should have already led Brussels to intervene substantially with Erdogan, using every means to force him to implement what has been agreed, for which he has also secured Community funds. However, the result of any EU intervention towards Ankara cannot be considered satisfactory, given that Erdogan has been implementing for several months now a new pre-electoral strategy to move Syrian refugees out of Turkish territory. As announced by Turkey's Foreign Minister Suleiman Soylu (June 13), the Ankara regime aims to "close" 1200 regions of the country to refugees and migrants, drastically reducing their number by at least 1 million. Some are sent "voluntarily" ostensibly to structures within "safe zones" in Syria and others are sent into the hands of traffickers where we know where they will end up. 

Note: Will Mr Schinas, who claims to be a friend and supporter of presidential candidate Averof Neophytou, finally decide to confront Turkey for the migrant flows it is channelling into Cyprus? Because the Commission's inaction has led his friend to run to Congo to negotiate the return of irregular migrants, depriving him of precious campaigning time. Isn't it a shame that Mr Neophytou is campaigning from Congo?

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  migration

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