European Union leaders outline a "one in, one out" proposal for dealing with the migrant crisis
As part of the plan, Turkey would receive billions of euros in funding from the EU
Finally, a “breakthrough” in Europe’s migrant crisis. At least, that’s how German Chancellor Angela Merkel described a new proposal outlined in Brussels, Belgium, on Monday.
After 12 hours of talks between European Union leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a deal was drawn up – and you’d be forgiven if it takes a moment for it to fully sink in.
Under the “one in, one out” proposal: For every Syrian refugee returned to Turkey from Greece, a Syrian refugee in Turkey would be resettled in the EU.
In turn, the EU would lift its visa requirements for Turkish citizens by the end of June 2016.
It would also speed up the payment of 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to Turkey to help it deal with the refugee crisis, with potentially billions more on the table. The country, which borders both Syria and Europe, is already host to 2.6 million migrants.
At this stage, it’s still just a proposal that will be considered at the next European Council migration crisis meeting on March 17-18.
But how would it actually work in practice? CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson talks us through five key questions about the plan.
Europe's migration crisis in 25 photos
Will this stop people from hopping onto boats to Greece?
Nic Robertson: That’s the EU’s intent, but it’s still not clear if that will be the case. People fleeing fighting in Syria will continue to try to find a safe place to live. Experience over the past summer has taught us that even when routes have been closed down, refugees continue to find other ways.
If Turkey does join the EU, won’t this just create a flood of more migrants?
NR: In theory, no. If Turkey joins the EU, under current agreements, the “Dublin Accord” would come into effect. This accord requires countries in which migrants first land to process their asylum application.
But of course, this is just in theory. Many migrants are on their way somewhere else – for example France or the UK – and don’t necessarily register until they arrive at the country they’re really trying to reach.
Is it even legal to send migrants back to Turkey?
NR: Amnesty International questions the legality of this. The humanitarian organization says the plan has moral and legal flaws, is dangerous and dehumanizing.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is also concerned about the return process, saying it doesn’t address the protection of refugees, in keeping with international obligations.
What is the EU is offering Turkey to sweeten the deal?
NR: There’s Turkey’s possible accession to the EU, and billions in funding to deal with the crisis.
But perhaps the most flavorsome sweetener for the Turks is getting the issue of a safe area inside Syria, for Syrians to live in, onto the EU agenda.
Turkey’s desire for a safe zone is something it’s been wanting to get onto the International agenda for the last few years. And so far, no one has committed troops on the ground, which is what it could be seeking.
What does this mean for refugees on the EU border now?
NR: We don’t know, and the EU doesn’t know. But it potentially leaves a lot of people in limbo, including those on the western Balkan route and on the Greek-Macedonian border.
Read more: Thousands of refugees stuck on Greece-Macedonia border as new rules take hold
A final thought
NR: For me, the real question is “how are they going to enforce this?” Let’s say you’ve got a family – mother, father, children – living in a tent in Greece and they say “we’re not leaving.” Who is going to remove them? The police? The military? Frontex, the EU’s border agency?
And where are you going to put all these families? What food and facilities are in place? So in terms of the treatment of these people, many dangers and pitfalls haven’t been addressed in these limited statements.