EU-Turkey Statement on refugees under strain over tension along Greek border

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Author (Corporate)
Publication Date 2020
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Summary :

Reports and analyses relating to rising tension between Turkey and the European Union (EU) in early 2020 relating to a threat by Turkish authorities to no longer prevent refugees placed in the country from crossing the borders into the European Union.

Further information:

Turkish authorities threatened in late February 2020 to 'open the gates' and allow refugees - many of them displaced due to the armed conflict in Syria - to cross the borders into neighbouring Bulgaria and Greece, both part of the European Union (EU). The situation unfolded in the context of Turkey's operation in northwestern Syria, which opposes it and the Syrian regime (backed by Russia) - an airstrike on 27 February had killed a number of Turkish soldiers. Media outlets and analysts saw the Turkish threat to open its European borders as a way to apply pressure on European stakeholders and NATO to support Turkey's effort in Syria.

Bulgaria and Greece vowed not to allow refugees into their territory, further adding to the tension and resulting in clashes with migrants already expecting to find an open border into Europe. The Greek Prime Minister accused Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of trying to use the refugees to 'blackmail' the European Union. The decision was also seen as contravening an agreement between Turkey and the European Union on refugees, signed in 2016 (also known as 2016 EU-Turkey Statement).

On 3 March, leaders from the main EU institutions travelled to the Greek-Turkish border - which is also an external border of the European Union - and pledged their full support to the two Member States directly affected by the situation. A number of bilateral interactions also took place between the Turkish President and European national leaders. The Council of the European Union held a meeting on 4 March to discuss the situation at the EU's external borders, and again on 6 March in which a Statement was adopted. This Statement acknowledges the increased migratory burden and risks Turkey faced on its territory and the effort made in hosting millions of migrants of refugees. However, it rejects the use of migratory pressure for political purposes and shows solidarity with the Member States most directly affected by it as they try to protect the EU's external borders.

A meeting between the leaders of Turkey and the European Union was held on 9 March, in an attempt to launch a dialogue to reduce tensions. On 18 March, Turkey decided to close its borders with Bulgaria and Greece due to fears relating to the coronavirus outbreak. In mid-April, the European Commission and the Greek authorities kicked off the relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece to elsewhere in the European Union under a plan unveiled the month before to support the country facing pressure from migration.

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties committee held a debate on 6 July 2020 concerning the methods used by Greek police and guards in keeping migrants from crossing the border. The discussion followed reports that violence was being used by Greek authorities to push back migrants.

Related Link(s)
Commentary and Analysis
The Guardian, 02/03/2020: 'Just run': on the Turkey-Greece border as refugees try to break through https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/02/just-run-on-the-turkey-greece-border-as-refugees-try-to-break-through
Foreign Policy, 04/03/2020: Turkey Is Forcing the West to Look at Idlib https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/04/turkey-west-european-union-idlib-syria-greece-border-refugees-erdogan/
The New York Times, 04/03/2020: A Balancing Act for Europe: Stop the Migrants, Support Greece, Assuage Turkey https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/world/europe/europe-migrants-turkey-greece.html
Deutsche Welle, 04/03/2020: 'We have no other choice': Afghans stranded at Greece's gates https://p.dw.com/p/3YsZZ
HRW: News, 04/03/2020: Greece/EU: Respect Rights, Ease Suffering at Borders https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/04/greece/eu-respect-rights-ease-suffering-borders
The Conversation, 04/03/2020: Tensions mount at Greek border with Turkey amid contested history of migration in the Aegean https://theconversation.com/tensions-mount-at-greek-border-with-turkey-amid-contested-history-of-migration-in-the-aegean-132990
EUObserver, 05/03/2020: Now in EU interest to work with Turkey on migration https://euobserver.com/opinion/147631
The Guardian, 05/03/2020: The humanitarian crisis in Turkey shines a light on Europe’s failures https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2020/mar/05/humanitarian-crisis-turkey-europe-eu-refugees-border
Foreign Policy, 05/03/2020: Europe’s Morality Is Dying at the Greek Border https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/05/refugees-turkey-europes-morality-is-dying-at-the-greek-border/
Deutsche Welle, 05/03/2020: Europe has lost its soul at the border https://p.dw.com/p/3Yw7h
EUObserver, 09/03/2020: Threat to EU on Greece-Turkey border is EU-made https://euobserver.com/opinion/147672
ECFR: Commentary, 09/03/2020: Wilful blindness: How the EU should revise its refugee deal with Turkey https://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_wilful_blindness_how_the_eu_should_revise_its_refugee_deal_with
TIME, 10/03/2020: Why the E.U. Is Doomed to Repeat the Mistakes of the 2015 Refugee Crisis https://time.com/5800116/eu-refugees-turkey-greece-border/
Euro|topics, March 2020: Europe and the crisis on the Greek border https://www.eurotopics.net/en/236230/
Deutsche Welle, 11/03/2020: In Greece, refugees are painted as the enemy https://p.dw.com/p/3ZELz
Elcano Royal Institute: Expert Comment, 12/03/2020: Why the EU should not opt for another refugee deal with Turkey with no shared responsibility http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_en/contenido?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/elcano/elcano_in/zonas_in/commentary-toygur-gurkan-why-eu-should-not-opt-for-another-refugee-deal-turkey-with-no-shared-responsibility
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 12/03/2020: Judy Asks: Is Europe Betraying Refugees? https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/81267
Euro|topics, March 2020: Refugees: stalemate between EU and Turkey https://www.eurotopics.net/en/236639/
GMFUS: Blog, 13/03/2020: Externalizing the Migration Issue is Costly for the EU http://www.gmfus.org/blog/2020/03/13/externalizing-migration-issue-costly-eu
Foreign Affairs, 17/03/2020: Europe Turns Its Back on Refugees—and Its Own Values https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/greece/2020-03-17/europe-turns-its-back-refugees-and-its-own-values
The Conversation, 18/03/2020: Solidarity with refugees can’t survive on compassion in crisis-stricken societies of Greece and Italy https://theconversation.com/solidarity-with-refugees-cant-survive-on-compassion-in-crisis-stricken-societies-of-greece-and-italy-133278
openDemocracy, 23/03/2020: Far-right vigilantism at Europe’s borders: the Greek experience https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/countering-radical-right/far-right-vigilantism-at-europes-borders-the-greek-experience/
LSE: EUROPP Blog, 25/03/2020: Greek-Turkish border crisis: Refugees are paying the price for the EU’s failure to reform its asylum system https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2020/03/25/greek-turkish-border-crisis-refugees-are-paying-the-price-for-the-eus-failure-to-reform-its-asylum-system/
CER: Bulletin Article, 26/03/2020: Turkey and the EU: Preserving Transactional Co-Operation https://www.cer.eu/publications/archive/bulletin-article/2020/turkey-and-eu-preserving-transactional-co-operation
German Institute for International and Security Affairs: SWP Comment, April 2020: The Refugee Drama in Syria, Turkey, and Greece Why a Comprehensive Approach Is Needed https://doi.org/10.18449/2020C16
Amnesty International: News, 06/04/2020: Greece/Turkey: Asylum-seekers and migrants killed and abused at borders https://www.amnesty.eu/news/greece-turkey-asylum-seekers-and-migrants-killed-and-abused-at-borders/
ECRE: News, 17/04/2020: Greece: 1000 Vulnerable People Evacuated, Relocation of Children Started, Asylum Procedures Suspended, Renewed Tensions at Turkish Border https://www.ecre.org/greece-1000-vulnerable-people-evacuated-relocation-of-children-started-asylum-procedures-suspended-renewed-tensions-at-turkish-border/
Human Rights Watch: Dispatches, 23/04/2020: EU Solidarity on Migrant Children in Greece Could Change Lives https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/23/eu-solidarity-migrant-children-greece-could-change-lives
Deutsche Welle, 02/05/2020: Refugees pushed from both sides of the Turkey-EU border https://p.dw.com/p/3YtOD
Spiegel Online International, 08/05/2020: The Killing of a Migrant at the Greek-Turkish Border https://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/greek-turkish-border-the-killing-of-muhammad-gulzar-a-7652ff68-8959-4e0d-9101-a1841a944161
Oxford University: Faculty of Law Blog, 08/05/2020: Fortress Europe and the Crackdown at the Greek-Turkish Border https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2020/05/fortress-europe
EPRS: Briefing, May 2020: Unaccompanied migrant children in Greece: New relocation scheme https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2020)651917
Amnesty International: News, 06/07/2020: Amnesty International’s concerns for debate on allegations of pushbacks of asylum-seekers and migrants at the Greece-Turkey borders https://www.amnesty.eu/news/amnesty-internationals-concerns-for-debate-on-allegations-of-pushbacks-of-asylum-seekers-and-migrants-at-the-greece-turkey-borders/

News
Politico, 27/02/2020: Turkey says it will no longer stop refugees from entering Europe https://www.politico.eu/article/turkey-says-it-will-no-longer-stop-refugees-from-entering-europe/
The New York Times, 28/02/2020: Turkey, Pressing E.U. for Help in Syria, Threatens to Open Borders to Refugees https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/28/world/europe/turkey-refugees-Geece-erdogan.html
Politico, 28/02/2020: Commission expects Turkey to ‘uphold’ migrant deal https://www.politico.eu/article/commission-expects-turkey-to-uphold-migrant-deal/
The Guardian, 28/02/2020: Greece and Bulgaria crack down on Turkish borders as refugees arrive https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/28/tensions-rise-between-turkey-and-russia-after-killing-of-troops-in-syria
Deutsche Welle, 29/02/2020: Over 13,000 migrants gather on Turkey-Greece border https://p.dw.com/p/3Yfr2
BBC News, 02/03/2020: Turkey says millions of migrants may head to EU https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51707958
Politico, 03/03/2020: EU leaders deploy to help Greece seal Turkish border https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-leaders-deploy-to-help-greece-seal-turkish-border/
EUObserver, 04/03/2020: Commission silent on Greece suspending asylum claims https://euobserver.com/migration/147621
BBC News, 04/03/2020: Turkey claims migrant killed in Greek border clash https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51735715
EurActiv, 04/03/2020: EU pledges €700 million to Greece, Bulgaria’s Borissov obtains ‘compliments’ https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/eu-pledges-e700-million-to-greece-bulgarias-borissov-obtains-compliments/
EUObserver, 04/03/2020: Turkey calls for EU action on Idlib https://euobserver.com/foreign/147627
Reuters, 04/03/2020: In a bind over Turkey, EU finds money to contain immigration https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN20R2AA
Reuters, 04/03/2020: Greek, Turkish police fire tear gas as migrant border crisis deepens https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN20R21U
Reuters, 05/03/2020: Greece plans to deport migrants who arrived after March 1 https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN20S0RR
Hürriyet Daily News, 05/03/2020: Turkey deploys 1,000 police at Greek border to stem push-back of migrants https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-deploys-1-000-police-at-greek-border-to-stem-push-back-of-migrants-152715
The Guardian, 06/03/2020: Refugees told 'Europe is closed' as tensions rise at Greece-Turkey border https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/06/refugees-europe-closed-tensions-greece-turkey-border
BBC News, 07/03/2020: Greece migrant crisis: Refugee centre ablaze as tensions rise https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51781394
Deutsche Welle, 07/03/2020: EU-Turkey migration deal is 'dead,' warns Greek PM https://p.dw.com/p/3Z0eF
BBC News, 09/03/2020: EU to take in some child migrants stuck in Greece https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51799470
The Guardian, 09/03/2020: EU to rehouse up to 1,500 child refugees living in Greek camps https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/09/turkey-erdogan-holds-talks-with-eu-leaders-over-border-opening
Deutsche Welle, 09/03/2020: Germany rebukes Turkey for using refugees as 'political pawns' https://p.dw.com/p/3Z4nA
Deutsche Welle, 11/03/2020: Turkey's Erdogan vows to keep border open for migrants until EU meets demands https://p.dw.com/p/3ZCcB
Reuters, 11/03/2020: Erdogan says Turkey will keep border open, slams 'Nazi' tactics https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN20Y14R
The Guardian, 11/03/2020: Erdoğan likens Greek border crackdown to Nazi atrocities https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/11/erdogan-compares-greek-border-crackdown-to-nazi-atrocities
TRT World, 11/03/2020: Erdogan vows to keep border open for refugees until EU meets all demands https://www.trtworld.com/turkey/erdogan-vows-to-keep-border-open-for-refugees-until-eu-meets-all-demands-34465
Deutsche Welle, 13/03/2020: 'Erdogan misusing refugees': Syrians in Germany on the Greek-Turkish border crisis https://p.dw.com/p/3ZPJV
The Guardian, 16/03/2020: Greece hopes EU-Turkey talks will ease tension over refugee crisis https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/16/greece-hopes-eu-turkey-talks-will-ease-tension-over-refugee-crisis
EUObserver, 17/03/2020: EU-Turkey border getting back to normal, for now https://euobserver.com/migration/147761
Associated Press, 18/03/2020: Greek police use tear gas on migrants at Turkish border https://apnews.com/1186bda6bd2bae0e78dee9743cfad10a
EurActiv, 19/03/2020: Turkey shuts borders with Greece and Bulgaria amid coronavirus fears https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/turkey-shuts-borders-with-greece-and-bulgaria-amid-coronavirus-fear/
TRT World, 19/03/2020: Greek police tear gas refugees and migrants at Turkish border https://www.trtworld.com/europe/greek-police-tear-gas-refugees-and-migrants-at-turkish-border-34693
Hürriyet Daily News, 28/03/2020: Turkey moves migrants from Greek border amid virus pandemic https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-moves-migrants-from-greek-border-amid-virus-pandemic-153355
Anadolu Agency, 13/04/2020: Turkey dismisses Greek minister’s EU deal allegations https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkey-dismisses-greek-minister-s-eu-deal-allegations/1803646
BBC News, 15/04/2020: Greece relocates unaccompanied migrant children to Luxembourg https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52303623
EUObserver, 21/04/2020: EU commission keeps asylum report on Greece secret https://euobserver.com/migration/148119
The Guardian, 24/04/2020: Cities lobby EU to offer shelter to migrant children from Greece https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/24/cities-lobby-eu-to-offer-shelter-to-migrant-children-from-greece
Deutsche Welle, 30/04/2020: Finland to take 100 refugee children from Greek camps https://p.dw.com/p/3bbLY
Kathimerini, 16/05/2020: Europol forsees reduced checks at Turkish border https://www.ekathimerini.com/252722/article/ekathimerini/news/europol-forsees-reduced-checks-at-turkish-border
TRT World, 21/05/2020: Turkey slams EC official's remarks on migration https://www.trtworld.com/turkey/turkey-slams-ec-official-s-remarks-on-migration-36492
France24, 24/05/2020: Greece dismisses reports Turkey occupied border strip https://www.france24.com/en/20200524-greece-dismisses-reports-turkey-occupied-border-strip
The Guardian, 26/05/2020: Greece fears border standoff with Turkey over migrants' return https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/26/greece-fears-row-with-turkey-over-return-of-migrants-to-border
Deutsche Welle, 26/05/2020: Migrants accuse Greece of forced deportations https://p.dw.com/p/3cZAA
Kathimerini, 28/05/2020: Greece, Turkey exchange barbs over migrants https://www.ekathimerini.com/253144/article/ekathimerini/news/greece-turkey-exchange-barbs-over-migrants
Anadolu Agency, 11/06/2020: Migration agency alarmed by Greek pushbacks of migrants https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/migration-agency-alarmed-by-greek-pushbacks-of-migrants/1873346
Reuters, 24/06/2020: EU says engagement needed to build trust with Turkey after migration dispute https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN23V1XC
Hürriyet Daily News, 25/06/2020: Turkey lashes out at EU, Greece over mistreatment of migrants https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-lashes-out-at-eu-greece-over-mistreatment-of-migrants-156001

Official
European Council: Press Release, 03/03/2020: Remarks by President Charles Michel following his visit to the Greek Turkish border https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/03/03/remarks-by-president-charles-michel-following-his-visit-to-orestiada-greece/
European Commission Press Release, 03/03/2020: Remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, President Sassoli and President Michel https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_380
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Statement on the situation at the EU's external borders https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/03/04/statement-on-the-situation-at-the-eus-external-borders/
European Council: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Press release on meeting between President Charles Michel and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/03/04/press-release-on-meeting-between-president-charles-michel-and-president-recep-tayyip-erdogan/
European Commission: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Turkey: Common interest to end conflict in Syria and cooperate on the refugee crisis https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_387
European Commission: Press remarks by Commissioner Johansson on immediate actions to support Greece (4 March 2020) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_396
European Commission: Press remarks by Vice-President Schinas on immediate actions to support Greece (4 March 2020) https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_20_395
European Commission: Press Release, 06/03/2020: Migration: Commission takes action to find solutions for unaccompanied migrant children on Greek islands https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_406
European Parliament: Press Release, 11/03/2020: Greek-Turkish border: MEPs reject Turkey’s pressure, demand common asylum rules https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200305IPR74187/
European Commission: Press Release, 15/04/2020: Migration: First unaccompanied children relocated from Greece to Luxembourg https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_668
UNICEF: Press Release, 15/04/2020: UN agencies welcome first relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece https://www.unicef.org/eca/press-releases/un-first-relocation-greece
UN IOM: Press Release, 11/06/2020: IOM Alarmed over Reports of Pushbacks from Greece at EU Border with Turkey https://www.iom.int/news/iom-alarmed-over-reports-pushbacks-greece-eu-border-turkey
UNHCR UK: Briefing Notes, 12/06/2020: UNHCR calls on Greece to investigate pushbacks at sea and land borders with Turkey https://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/briefing/2020/6/5ee33a6f4/unhcr-calls-greece-investigate-pushbacks-sea-land-borders-turkey.html
European Parliament: Press Release, 06/07/2020: Investigate alleged pushbacks of asylum-seekers at the Greek-Turkish border, MEPs demand https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20200703IPR82627/

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