Turkey is struggling to cope with the 2.7 million Syrians it hosts and honor its agreement to stop refugees from crossing into Europe. And renewed fighting in Syria last week pushed tens of thousands of Syrians closer to the border with Turkey, in a sign that the problem could still get worse.
This is the diplomatic equivalent of sweeping millions of people under the rug. How’s that going to end?
Is this an unreasonable request?
Last year, we were offered literally a million reminders that the system of refugee protection was failing. Each asylum-seeker bravely crossing the Mediterranean was telling us that something was wrong in countries of first asylum.
In exchange for concessions on visa requirements for Turks traveling to Europe, the European Union is asking Ankara to take back all migrants, including refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and others, who are currently crossing from Turkey into Greece by irregular means; the European Union proposes in turn to accept an equivalent number of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey.
Some union officials are portraying this deal as a good solution to the crisis. In reality, the automatic forced return that the deal allows is illegal and will be ineffective.
It is illegal because forced returns run contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits the collective expulsions of aliens. They also violate the right to seek asylum that was established in 1948 by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and contravene guarantees established by the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, which recognizes that seeking asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules.
Human Rights Watch supports a dramatic increase in refugee resettlement from Turkey and other frontline states, and shares the hope that this possibility will convince Syrian refugees that they can reside in safety and dignity in Turkey and other countries of first asylum pending a durable solution to their plight. However, we caution against any suggestion of conditionality between refugee resettlement and the forced return of asylum seekers. Resettlement can be a very helpful supplement to asylum but can never be a substitute for the right to seek asylum.
We see three particularly harmful elements in the principles articulated on March 7: 1) fast-track mass returns to Turkey, 2) the proposal to resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each irregularly arriving Syrian who is returned to Turkey; and 3) cooperation with Turkey on what appears to be the establishment of a “safe area” in Syria that would be used as a pretext to contain the flow of asylum seekers leaving that war-torn country.
We knew the government would want to make things look extremely complex, so no international force would be keen on intervening, and may even prop up the status quo. We knew the more peaceful we were, the more violent the government would be. It was a horrifically simple equation: enough of us would have to die before the rest of the world did something to help. I guess we had watched too many American films.
It was a gamble, and we didn’t have a good hand. But taking in to consideration what happened in Libya, we felt lucky. The Assad regime being, unlike us, well versed in the reality of international politics, called our bluff. You know the rest.
We shouldn’t parcel racism into discrete categories despite its unevenness. The conflation of anything undesirable with “Islam” has deep antecedents in U.S. slavery and colonization, but Middle Easterners and South Asians are capable of replicating earlier epochs of racism even as they suffer the consequences of its continued existence. To untangle these complexities, we have to extricate ourselves from notions of racism that elide the ruling class and its stooges. We’ll get nowhere if we reproduce the imperatives of people invested in our confusion.
Prof Salaita is right. We should not fall for that banana in the tailpipe.
“They hit me and took my money,” said Alan Murad, a 17-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker living at a refugee center in Sofia,Bulgaria’s capital, recounting his treatment by the Bulgarian border authorities. “I ran away from hell at home, trying to find paradise in Europe. Instead, I found another hell.”
For starters, the EU should commit to absorbing at least 500,000 asylum-seekers a year, while working to convince the rest of the world to accept an equal number. A public commitment of this magnitude should help calm the disorderly scramble for Europe. Asylum-seekers provided with a clear status and promises of safety could be induced to wait in Turkey and other frontline countries, rather than risk a dangerous Mediterranean crossing.Second, formal gateways should be established, first in Turkey, and then in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco. Gateway countries would establish, in close cooperation with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the EU, processing centers to register asylum-seekers and assess their applications. Accepted asylum-seekers would then be placed in a queue and required to remain in the gateway country until an EU country accepts them. A safe, deliberate process of vetting refugees would quell security concerns in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.