EU: Anniversary of Turkey deal offers warning against further dangerous migration deals

EU: Anniversary of Turkey deal offers warning against further dangerous migration deals

Ahead of the five year anniversary of the EU-Turkey deal on migration on 18 March, Amnesty International is calling on EU leaders to turn away from the five years of failed policies which have resulted in tens of thousands of people being forced to stay in inhumane conditions on the Greek islands, and put refugees at risk by forcing them to stay in Turkey.  As EU Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs ministers prepare to debate on further expanding migration cooperation with countries outside of Europe, Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s EU office said:

The EU-Turkey deal has been an abject failure. The EU and its member states have failed to take responsibility for people seeking safety in Europe. They have failed to respect the rights of refugees and migrants and failed to provide alternative safe passage to Europe for people seeking protection. Ministers must prioritize viable solutions that would save lives. Shameful policies such as the EU-Turkey deal and the EU’s reckless cooperation with Libya cannot be the blueprint for future migration deals with other countries.

Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s EU office

“Five years after the deal was signed, 15 000 women, men and children remain trapped in overcrowded camps on the Greek islands and tens of thousands more have endured stays there. Many are forced to sleep in tents, braving cold weather in conditions so unsafe that some people have died as a result.

“This deal has been corrosive for the EU’s human rights record and exposed the EU’s willingness to enter into deals to limit migration, based purely on political convenience with little regard for the inevitable human cost.”

While the number of people arriving on the Greek islands has fallen, those attempting the journey risk experiencing violence and dangerous pushbacks to Turkey.  

“Turkey is not safe for refugees and asylum seekers. The country has even returned people to Syria. EU leaders must step up solidarity efforts, increase relocations to other member states, follow the examples of solidarity by activists and welcoming communities across Europe.”


The EU-Turkey statement  (‘commonly referred to as the ‘deal’) was signed on 18 March 2016. In it, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement which aimed to return all people arriving irregularly to the Aegean islands, including asylum seekers, to Turkey.

As part of the agreement, Turkey committed to prevent people from leaving its territory for Europe. In return, among other things, the EU has given Turkey billions of euros, including hundreds of millions in September 2020 to support refugees living in the country. 

Following the deal, Greece introduced policies forcing people entering through the islands to stay in camps there while they wait for a decision on their asylum claims. Currently, the vast majority come from traditional countries of origin of refugees (86% come from Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, DRC, and Palestine) while 1 out 4 people are children (26%).

Turkey hosts 4 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrian refugees – more than any other country.