2016 migrant deal
Dozens of migrants have been rescued from a boat off the Greek island of Halki, the coast guard said on Aug. 26, in one of the biggest operations of its kind in the country in months. At least 96 people had been rescued since the incident was first reported on Aug. 25 evening. The operation, 21 miles west of the small Aegean island of Halki, close to Turkey, was still in progress as witnesses reported that there were more people on board.
A boat that sank on Van Lake in eastern Turkey is believed to have had 55 to 60 migrants onboard, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on July 8, adding that six bodies had been recovered so far. The lake is located on the path of migrants attempting to reach western Turkey from Iran, Afghanistan and other countries.
In 2016, the EU called in consultants from McKinsey company to implement the refugee deal signed with Turkey in an attempt to expedite asylum procedures. A newly released report by a network of NGOs however has raised concern that in the process of trying to make asylum process faster, refugees' rights to a fair asylum procedure could be compromised. The EU's own internal procurement watchdog later deemed the contract signed with McKinsey “irregular.”
The plight of the refugees in Turkey continues as authorities have been taking them to a coast in Çanakkale to encourage them to cross into Greece. "Police have dropped us here and left. We are out in the open. There's no food or drinks. No one is coming. They told us that we can cross into Greece from where they dropped us, but there's no road here," a refugee told Duvar.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has said that discussions with Turkey regarding the continued implementation of the March 2016 are continuing. The talks between the two sides were initiated after Ankara announced in February that it would no longer stop migrants trying to cross its border into the EU, saying circumstances had changed since 2016, when the migrant deal was forged.
Women and children migrants at Turkey's border with Greece protested the European Union's refusal to allow them entry in front of the Kastanies Border Gate on March 12. The group chanted slogans such as "Greece, open the gate" and "Help us" as they marched across the encampment where they have been waiting to leave Turkey since Feb. 28.
Turkey's Health Ministry has appointed a National Medical Rescue Team (UMKE) to conduct health screenings on the thousands of migrants at the Greek border. UMKE employees have begun to disinfect the encampment and check the temperatures of migrants with electronic and thermal devices.
The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) will be applying to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of migrants who were exposed to violence by Greek forces, TBB Chair Metin Feyzioğlu said March 11. Feyzioğlu visited the encampment near the Pazarkule Border Gate with a committee, where he said they collected evidence of maltreatment by Greece.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 10 that he was due to meet Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, French leader Emmanuel Macron and possibly U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a summit in Istanbul on March 17.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency has claimed that Greek police are digging a trench along the border and have placed fences along the Evros River, a relatively safe crossing for migrants. Migrants at the Turkey-Greece border have been exposed to tear gas and plastic bullets from both sides since Ankara's Feb. 28 decision to allow migrants to cross into the European Union.
The EU and Turkey agreed to set up two working groups to clarify the continued implementation of the 2016 migrant deal, European Council President Michel said on March 9. The parties agreed to task EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with continuing the discussions in order to clarify the position of both sides on implementation of the 2016 deal, Michel said.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged Greece to open its borders to migrants, adding that he would meet European Union officials on March 9 to discuss migration. "We were hoping to get much more support from international community when it comes to refugees. I have a meeting with European Union officials tomorrow in Belgium. We will discuss these issues," Erdoğan said.
Turkish and Greek academics both agree that Turkey, Greece and the European Union as a whole failed to fully abide by the 2016 migrant deal. While Greek academic Konstantinos Tsitselikes said the number of people who crossed into Europe was is closer to 1,000 rather than the 140,000 claimed by Ankara, Turkish academic Murat Erdoğan says the EU's refusal to accept the migrants is justified.
Around 300 migrants at Ankara's Akyurt Repatriation Center were transported to the border against their will on the night of Feb. 29, Ankara Bar Association's Migrant Rights Center Chair Sadık Onur Gelbal said on March 4. According to a migrant still in the center, only 7 migrants stayed in the center after resisting deportation. Attorneys have not been allowed to visit it.
The European Parliament's former Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, has said in a statement on Twitter that the European Union failed to uphold its end of the 2016 migrant deal with Turkey after several EU countries have criticized Ankara's recent move to ease border restrictions.