The EU-Turkey deal, aiming to stop the flow of migrants into Europe via the Aegean Sea, came into effect on Sunday (20 March) but several outstanding legal issues and logistical challenges raise questions about how it would work in reality.
The deal under which the EU intends to return everyone, including Syrians, who arrives in Greece via smugglers, and resettle Syrian refugees directly from Turkey on a one-for-one basis, has not deterred migrants so far.
According to Greek authorities, 1,662 people had arrived on Greek islands by Monday morning, twice the official count from the day before, Reuters reported.
Who will be returned?
“All irregular migrants will be returned, all asylum seekers will be allowed to lodge their claim,” an European Commission spokesman said Monday.
Everyone who has arrived on the Greek islands after Sunday, and does not apply for asylum in Greece or is not eligible for international protection, is considered an irregular migrant, and will be sent back.
Those claiming asylum, including Syrians, will also be sent back to Turkey, once Greek legislation is in place to deem Turkey a safe third country, which means it complies with the standards of the Geneva Convention on refugees and provides protection for those fleeing war.
When will returns and resettlement start?
Decisions on the “inadmissibility” of asylum claims will start from 28 March, once Greece has amended its asylum law to make Turkey a safe third country.
Turkish legal tweaks?
Besides the revision of Greek asylum legislation, the EU is also counting on Turkey to make legal changes to ensure that the level of protection provided to nationalities other than Syrians is “equivalent in substance to that of the Geneva Convention” and that Syrians who are returned will get their rights back as refugees in Turkey.
EU officials said there is clear political commitment from the Turkish side to do so but it is unclear how Ankara will set up those safeguards.
What will happen to those already in Greece?
Greek authorities say over 50,000 migrants are stranded in the country. They can apply for asylum in Greece and then apply to be part of the relocation scheme, a program to distribute refugees among EU members proportionally. But relocation is not an option for those arriving after 20 March.
Around 4,000 staff is required to make the EU-Turkey deal work in economically battered Greece.
Member states, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and Frontex, the EU’s border agency will contribute half of this, with EU countries already pledging 1,300 personnel.
Full article: EU-Turkey deal gets reality check (EU Observer)