he European Union’s dicey migration deal with Turkey is causing untold misery among migrants and refugees trapped on Greek islands, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released Wednesday.
The HRW organization conducted research in May and June on the island of Lesbos that “documented the deteriorating mental health of asylum seekers and migrants” who cannot stay in Greece or move on to other European countries.
In March 2016, the EU agreed to a €6 billion package for Turkey, among other concessions, provided that Ankara sealed off its migration routes to the EU. The deal soured following developments in Turkey under the authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who became increasingly confrontational with Europe over visa and EU accession promises that didn’t materialize.
That’s left thousands of migrants stranded, in what may be a cautionary tale for African nations courted by Europe with some of the same incentives. Similar proposals that would contain migrants in Libya, or send up to €800 million to Tunisiain exchange for policies and promises to end migration flows to EU nations, are on the table in what German Chancellor Angela Merkel has referred to as “the Turkey model.” In Estonia last week, EU leaders resolved to stem the Mediterranean migrant flows to Italy and work more closely with Algeria and Egypt as well.
Yet even EU leaders have suggested the Turkey deal isn’t a good blueprint for African policy, and many observers are wary of EU “migrant compacts” for Africa based on the Turkey experience.
The HRW report notes that in addition to the physical and emotional trauma of asylum seekers trapped in Greece, there are disparities in treatment that leave some groups, including Algerian and Moroccan migrants, at a disadvantage. They are “often detained because Greek authorities allege that they apply for asylum merely to delay or frustrate returns to Turkey, raising concerns about the use of arbitrary detention based on nationality,” the report said.