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 Links
Commentary and Analysis
The Guardian, 02/03/2020: '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
The New York Times, 04/03/2020: A Balancing Act for Europe: Stop the Migrants, Support Greece, Assuage Turkey
Deutsche Welle, 04/03/2020: 'We have no other choice': Afghans stranded at Greece's gates
HRW: News, 04/03/2020: Greece/EU: Respect Rights, Ease Suffering at Borders
The Conversation, 04/03/2020: Tensions mount at Greek border with Turkey amid contested history of migration in the Aegean
EUObserver, 05/03/2020: Now in EU interest to work with Turkey on migration
The Guardian, 05/03/2020: The humanitarian crisis in Turkey shines a light on Europe’s failures
Foreign Policy, 05/03/2020: Europe’s Morality Is Dying at the Greek Border
Deutsche Welle, 05/03/2020: Europe has lost its soul at the border
EUObserver, 09/03/2020: Threat to EU on Greece-Turkey border is EU-made
ECFR: Commentary, 09/03/2020: Wilful blindness: How the EU should revise its refugee deal with Turkey
TIME, 10/03/2020: Why the E.U. Is Doomed to Repeat the Mistakes of the 2015 Refugee Crisis
Euro|topics, March 2020: Europe and the crisis on the Greek border
Deutsche Welle, 11/03/2020: In Greece, refugees are painted as the enemy
Elcano Royal Institute: Expert Comment, 12/03/2020: Why the EU should not opt for another refugee deal with Turkey with no shared responsibility
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 12/03/2020: Judy Asks: Is Europe Betraying Refugees?
Euro|topics, March 2020: Refugees: stalemate between EU and Turkey
GMFUS: Blog, 13/03/2020: Externalizing the Migration Issue is Costly for the EU
Foreign Affairs, 17/03/2020: Europe Turns Its Back on 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
openDemocracy, 23/03/2020: Far-right vigilantism at Europe’s 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
CER: Bulletin Article, 26/03/2020: Turkey and the 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
Amnesty International: News, 06/04/2020: 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
Human Rights Watch: Dispatches, 23/04/2020: EU Solidarity on Migrant Children in Greece Could Change Lives
Deutsche Welle, 02/05/2020: Refugees pushed from both sides of the Turkey-EU border
Spiegel Online International, 08/05/2020: The Killing of a Migrant at the Greek-Turkish Border
Oxford University: Faculty of Law Blog, 08/05/2020: Fortress Europe and the Crackdown at the Greek-Turkish Border
EPRS: Briefing, May 2020: Unaccompanied migrant children in Greece: New relocation scheme
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

Politico, 27/02/2020: 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
Politico, 28/02/2020: Commission expects Turkey to ‘uphold’ migrant deal
The Guardian, 28/02/2020: Greece and Bulgaria crack down on Turkish borders as refugees arrive
Deutsche Welle, 29/02/2020: Over 13,000 migrants gather on Turkey-Greece border
BBC News, 02/03/2020: Turkey says millions of migrants may head to EU
Politico, 03/03/2020: EU leaders deploy to help Greece seal Turkish border
EUObserver, 04/03/2020: Commission silent on Greece suspending asylum claims
BBC News, 04/03/2020: Turkey claims migrant killed in Greek border clash
EurActiv, 04/03/2020: EU pledges €700 million to Greece, Bulgaria’s Borissov obtains ‘compliments’
EUObserver, 04/03/2020: Turkey calls for EU action on Idlib
Reuters, 04/03/2020: In a bind over Turkey, EU finds money to contain immigration
Reuters, 04/03/2020: Greek, Turkish police fire tear gas as migrant border crisis deepens
Reuters, 05/03/2020: Greece plans to deport migrants who arrived after March 1
Hürriyet Daily News, 05/03/2020: Turkey deploys 1,000 police at Greek border to stem push-back of migrants
The Guardian, 06/03/2020: Refugees told 'Europe is closed' as tensions rise at Greece-Turkey border
BBC News, 07/03/2020: Greece migrant crisis: Refugee centre ablaze as tensions rise
Deutsche Welle, 07/03/2020: EU-Turkey migration deal is 'dead,' warns Greek PM
BBC News, 09/03/2020: EU to take in some child migrants stuck in Greece
The Guardian, 09/03/2020: EU to rehouse up to 1,500 child refugees living in Greek camps
Deutsche Welle, 09/03/2020: Germany rebukes Turkey for using refugees as 'political pawns'
Deutsche Welle, 11/03/2020: Turkey's Erdogan vows to keep border open for migrants until EU meets demands
Reuters, 11/03/2020: Erdogan says Turkey will keep border open, slams 'Nazi' tactics
The Guardian, 11/03/2020: Erdoğan likens Greek border crackdown to Nazi atrocities
TRT World, 11/03/2020: Erdogan vows to keep border open for refugees until EU meets all demands
Deutsche Welle, 13/03/2020: 'Erdogan misusing refugees': Syrians in Germany on the Greek-Turkish border crisis
The Guardian, 16/03/2020: Greece hopes EU-Turkey talks will ease tension over refugee crisis
EUObserver, 17/03/2020: EU-Turkey border getting back to normal, for now
Associated Press, 18/03/2020: Greek police use tear gas on migrants at Turkish border
EurActiv, 19/03/2020: Turkey shuts borders with Greece and Bulgaria amid coronavirus fears
TRT World, 19/03/2020: Greek police tear gas refugees and migrants at Turkish border
Hürriyet Daily News, 28/03/2020: Turkey moves migrants from Greek border amid virus pandemic
Anadolu Agency, 13/04/2020: Turkey dismisses Greek minister’s EU deal allegations
BBC News, 15/04/2020: Greece relocates unaccompanied migrant children to Luxembourg
EUObserver, 21/04/2020: EU commission keeps asylum report on Greece secret
The Guardian, 24/04/2020: 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
Kathimerini, 16/05/2020: Europol forsees reduced checks at Turkish border
TRT World, 21/05/2020: Turkey slams EC official's remarks on migration
France24, 24/05/2020: Greece dismisses reports Turkey occupied border strip
The Guardian, 26/05/2020: Greece fears border standoff with Turkey over migrants' return
Deutsche Welle, 26/05/2020: Migrants accuse Greece of forced deportations
Kathimerini, 28/05/2020: Greece, Turkey exchange barbs over migrants
Anadolu Agency, 11/06/2020: Migration agency alarmed by Greek pushbacks of migrants
Reuters, 24/06/2020: EU says engagement needed to build trust with Turkey after migration dispute
Hürriyet Daily News, 25/06/2020: Turkey lashes out at EU, Greece over mistreatment of migrants

European Council: Press Release, 03/03/2020: Remarks by President Charles Michel following his visit to the Greek Turkish border
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
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Statement on the situation at the EU's external borders
European Council: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Press release on meeting between President Charles Michel and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
European Commission: Press Release, 04/03/2020: Turkey: Common interest to end conflict in Syria and cooperate on the refugee crisis
European Commission: Press remarks by Commissioner Johansson on immediate actions to support Greece (4 March 2020)
European Commission: Press remarks by Vice-President Schinas on immediate actions to support Greece (4 March 2020)
European Commission: Press Release, 06/03/2020: Migration: Commission takes action to find solutions for unaccompanied migrant children on Greek islands
European Parliament: Press Release, 11/03/2020: Greek-Turkish border: MEPs reject Turkey’s pressure, demand common asylum rules
European Commission: Press Release, 15/04/2020: Migration: First unaccompanied children relocated from Greece to Luxembourg
UNICEF: Press Release, 15/04/2020: UN agencies welcome first relocation of unaccompanied children from Greece
UN IOM: Press Release, 11/06/2020: IOM Alarmed over Reports of Pushbacks from Greece at EU Border with Turkey
UNHCR UK: Briefing Notes, 12/06/2020: UNHCR calls on Greece to investigate pushbacks at sea and land borders with Turkey
European Parliament: Press Release, 06/07/2020: Investigate alleged pushbacks of asylum-seekers at the Greek-Turkish border, MEPs demand

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