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OWU Connection Programs
Project Title: Examining the European Union Asylum Policy: The EU-Turkey Migration Statement
Mentor: Robert Gitter
In 2015, around 2.1 million asylum seekers entered the European Union and the world watched as issues of humanitarian concern, terrorism, and right-wing politics became visible. Arriving primarily from Northern Africa and the Middle East, these asylum seekers favored the route to Europe that led them to cross the short stretch of the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Existing common European Union asylum policies that disadvantaged member states geographically located on the borders of the EU failed, resulting in confusion, bureaucratic chaos, and concern for the safety of the arriving refugees. After many failed attempts by the European Union’s legislative branch to calm the situation, a bilateral deal was struck with the Turkish government in March of 2016 to close the Mediterranean Migration Route. This “EU-Turkey Migration Statement” involved funds and diplomatic promises in exchange for a Turkish promise to patrol their sea border and prevent migrants from leaving. After the deal’s implementation however, humanitarian concerns on the Greek islands have increased and questions about the legality of keeping asylum seekers inside of Turkey have arisen. While the deal has not yet been abandoned, the majority of its provisions have not been upheld.
In this study, I discuss how this political deal that was touted as the best solution has affected human lives in ways that could have been prevented by structural change inside the EU. I will also discuss concerns about the ability of the EU to maintain diplomatic power with Turkey while beholden to this deal, since in the two years since it was created, no internal structural change has occurred, rather more foreign bilateral deals have been struck. This study creates a comparison of legal structures and on-the-ground realities and puts media coverage of humanitarian tragedies into a longer term, deeper context.