CPS head of economic research Daniel Mahoney wrote for CapX on the EU-Turkey migrant deal, Wednesday 20 April 2016.
The EU-Turkey migrant deal appears to be achieving its goal in reducing the number of migrant crossings to Greece. Since the implementation of this deal, migrant arrivals in Greece have been reduced to a snail’s pace. From a peak of around 6,000 per day in October, April has seen an average of just 133 per day, according to data from the United Nations.
Source: United Nations
Of course, this deal has come at a huge political cost to Europe. Angela Merkel’s unilateral open door policy – which has resulted in greater numbers of people risking their lives to reach European shores – has forced the European Union (EU) to negotiate with an increasingly authoritarian Turkish Government. Turkey has squeezed a number of concessions out of the EU at a time of severe crackdowns on freedom of speech. This includes the re-opening of talks on Turkish membership of the EU and the fast-tracking of Visa free access for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area – not to mention a 6 Billion Euro aid package. Angela Merkel has now even taken the extraordinary decision of permitting the prosecution of a German comedian, who made a joke at President Erdogan’s expense.
However, we are where we are. And we should all hope this deal works in the long run.
The deal could, of course, stop huge numbers of people risking their lives. It could also finally give Europe the ability to help those most in need and stop the arrival of large numbers of economic migrants. Over the past year, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that hundreds of thousands of economic migrants are among those attempting to cross the sea into Europe.
Frans Timmerman, vice-president of the European Commission, estimates that around 60 per cent of arrivals have absolutely no reason to ask for refugee status. Various member states across the EU are also beginning to accept this reality. The left-wing Swedish Government has stated that it may have to reject 80,000 of the 163,000 asylum claims made in 2015. In other countries, some newly arrived migrants are voluntarily leaving. Thousands of Iraqi migrants in Finland, for example, have decided to voluntarily fly back to Iraq citing “family issues and disappointment with life in the frosty Nordic country”.
Surely, these people cannot be Europe’s priority. Accepting large volumes of economic migrants arriving in Europe illegally cannot be a sensible policy, and Europe’s leaders must now ensure that 2015’s unprecedented migratory wave is not repeated again.
The EU-Turkey deal needs to hold up and, crucially, there needs to be a solution to the ever-greater number of crossings from North Africa to the Italian coast. The terrible reports of further drownings off the coast of Egypt emphasise the need to dissuade more people from making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean sea.
If Europe can finally secure its external border, a reasonable solution to this crisis may finally emerge. Europe – along with other regions around the world – must offer help to the most vulnerable refugees who are fleeing in fear of their lives. From the start, David Cameron’s approach to the migrant crisis has been to offer generous aid money to the region while offering sanctuary to the most vulnerable refugees directly from the camps. This is clearly the right approach and one that the rest of Europe seems to be – albeit belatedly – increasingly signed up to. There, of course, should also be a renewed push for other regions to help refugees, too. It is a disgrace, for example, that no Arab gulf countries are taking in refugees.
This has to be the long-term solution. It would ensure that Europe and other regions can help the most vulnerable – who no longer need to make dangerous crossings and be forced into the hands of people smugglers – while stopping hundreds of thousands more economic migrants flowing into Europe.
It is for this reason why we must hope the EU-Turkey deal continues to achieve its stated goal.