[JURIST] EU leaders agreed to a deal with Turkey Friday to stem migrant flows, particularly of Syrian refugees, to Europe in return for financial and political incentive to Ankara. Under the terms of the deal [WP report], all migrants crossing the Aegean into Greece would be sent back to Turkey, effectively turning the country into the region's "migrant holding center." In return for receiving the migrants, the EU is promising [Reuters report] to speed disbursement of €3 billion to Turkey, while offering an additional €3 billion by 2018 contingent upon creation of plans qualifying for EU assistance. The agreement is in line with a recent European Commission [official website] press release [text] outlining how to provide "[l]egal safeguards for the return of all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands." While the EU contends this agreement serves to further alleviate human rights issues associated with the migration, some have denounced the agreement as Europe washing its hands of the matter, expressing concerns about sending refugees back to Turkey, a country with a history of human rights issues.
The rights of migrant populations has emerged as one of the most significant humanitarian issue around the world. On Tuesday Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Executive Director Kenneth Roth urged EU leaders to reject [JURIST report] a proposed EU Joint Action Plan with Turkey to handle the influx of migrants due to the "disregard for international law covering the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants." Last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, expressed concerns over a proposed migrant exchange program [JURIST report] between the EU and Turkey, arguing it may violate international law. The Joint Action Plan [text, PDF], was proposed to decrease human smuggling along the shores of southern Europe and to help alleviate the massive influx of refugees hosted by Turkey. The most controversial aspect of the deal is the objective "to resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU Member States." Grandi said in his speech before the European Parliament "I am deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law."