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Impossible to sustain Turkey’s cooperation on refugees with EU’s financial support alone: report

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A recently published paper by a prominent German think tank on Turkey’s partnership with the European Union said it is not possible to ensure the sustainability of Ankara’s cooperation with Brussels on refugees with financial support alone, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported on Saturday.

Turkey and the EU had agreed in 2016 on a deal that aimed to reduce the number of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. According to the agreement, the EU had promised the allocation of 6 billion euros in aid to Turkey that would be used for projects to help migrants.

The paper, titled “Turkey as a Partner and Challenge for European Security, Migration and Asylum,” written by M. Murat Erdoğan and Markos Papakonstantis for the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS) at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), said “it is vitally important for the security of the EU to sustain cooperation with Turkey (on refugees). However, it is not possible to ensure the sustainability of this cooperation only with financial support.”

Under the 2016 agreement, the Europeans undertook to begin to “resettle” Syrians who were in refugee camps in Turkey and to make two payouts of 3 billion euros each to help Turkey receive refugees.

Despite the deal, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized EU officials for failing to provide Turkey with sufficient support to ease the country’s huge refugee population.

EU leaders, on the other hand, have accused Erdoğan of using migrants as bargaining chips by pushing them towards the Greek border.

“The 18 March 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey needs to be updated, both in terms of its duration and contents,” the report recommended and added that endeavors to decrease Turkey’s financial burden in connection with the refugees and to transfer resources that would contribute to the local integration processes are necessary. 

“Control mechanisms should be set up to ensure that the Turkish state and the NGOs in Turkey make a more efficient use of their resources,” the report said.

Since the deal in 2016, the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece has plummeted. In 2015 at the height of the crisis, 856,000 crossed the Aegean Sea. This figure dropped to 173,000 the next year, and to only 30,000 in 2017.

By 2020, the number was just 10,000.

“It is a fact that Turkey has abided by the 18 March 2016 deal for the most part, despite the lack of progress on political matters,” the authors claimed.

“This is reflected in the decrease in the number of crossings. However, it should not be a surprise that Turkey will attempt to instrumentalize this issue from time to time. Turkey will object to being treated as a ‘cheap stock of refugees’ and take strict political steps if needed,” the report said.

The report underlined that for Turkey to act as “the guardian of the EU,” the EU’s cooperation with Turkey should be “within a different modality” than the current one.

“The refugee problem will continue to exist and enlarge in magnitude in coming decades, and will persist on the European agenda as the most critical security issue,” the report said and concluded that “comprehensive and sustainable cooperation channels must be developed and strengthened between Turkey, Greece and the EU” in order to tackle the issue.

Turkey is home to a total of 4,038,857 refugees from around the world, with 3,731,028 of them Syrian refugees under temporary protection status, according to the latest figures provided by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. The number of refugees with international protection status is 307,829.

Refugees in Turkey have been increasingly targeted by hate speech and hate crimes and are blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic troubles.

Turkish media including pro-government and opposition outlets fuel and exploit the flames of hatred against people who fled their countries and sought refuge in Turkey.

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