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All you need to know about the EU-Turkey refugee deal

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All you need to know about the EU-Turkey refugee deal


The first migrant-asylum seeker exchange took place between the EU and Turkey on Monday, April 4, 2016.

It comes two weeks after a landmark deal on refugees between Brussels and Ankara.

How did the deal come about?

The deal between the European Union and Turkey is aimed at stemming the uncontrolled mass movement of people into Europe.

Around 850,000 migrants and refugees arrived by sea into Greece in 2015, the vast majority from Turkey, according to the UN’s refugee agency.

Controlling these flows into Greece is a key EU goal, as it impacts on the number of migrants moving north into mainland Europe.

Tens of thousands of migrants have been stranded in Greece as countries further north have closed their borders to control flows.

How will it work?

New migrants who arrive in Greece, and who are found not to be in genuine need of asylum, are returned to Turkey.

In exchange, the EU will take a Syrian who has been declared in need of asylum.

The EC says there are 18,000 resettlement places available for Turkey-EU bound refugees, with the possibility of a further 54,000 spots becoming available.

However, the EU does not have a strong track record when it comes to resettling migrants.

What do critics say?

Amnesty International says migrants should not be returned to Turkey because it is not a safe country of asylum. It also claims that Turkish authorities have been rounding up around 100 Syrians a day and returning them to Syria. The NGO argues migrants returned to Turkey from Greece will suffer the same fate.

UNHCR says the deal was being prematurely implemented without the required safeguards in place. It said migrants were being held against their will at reception facilities in Greece, and it would not transport people there from the beaches. It will continue to provide other services including counseling to refugees, it added.

“Under the new provisions, these so-called hotspots have now become detention centres,” said the UNHCR’s Melissa Fleming.

Doctors Without Borders has decided to stop working in Moria camp (Lesbos, Greece) or running the bus from Lesvos to the camp as “it has become an expulsion centre” not anymore a reception centre. MSF has also pulled out from Idomeni on security reasons after two migrants set themselves on fire.

What will this mean for EU-Turkey relations?

The official line from the European Commission, when they announced the deal, was that the talks were about “deepening Turkey-EU relations”, as well as the migration crisis.

Turkey began negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France, have slowed progress.

As part of the refugees deal, the “ascension process will be re-energised”. It will also see Turkish citizens, providing Ankara fulfils its part of the agreement, will no longer be required to have a visa to travel to the EU.

Yet there is concern that the EU is turning a blind eye to human rights abuses and a media crackdown in Turkey.

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