The narrative regarding refugees and migrants has often been couched in negative terms, which has led in turn to the isolation of such individuals. This is partly a cause of the criminalisation of migrants perpetuated in the media, leading to xenophobia and racism, or top-down policies that do not take into account lived realities. This is clearly evident in the case of the EU-Turkey deal of 2016 – an agreement to discourage refugees from seeking asylum in Europe. It allowed Greece to send incoming ‘irregular migrants’ to Turkey instead – the latter would increase measures to stop illegal migration and would in exchange receive €6 billion in aid from the EU for its migrant communities; the agreement also included the possibility of resettling of one Syrian refugee in the EU for every one that Turkey let in. It is clear that this agreement is a political strategy benefiting EU countries at the expense of refugees’ rights, and despite being heavily criticised as such, it was still pushed forward.
Turkey had essentially taken on the heavy burden of becoming Europe’s new buffer zone. The toll of this was not fully realised until February 2020 when Turkish authorities announced the reopening of the border shared with Greece amid accusations that the EU had not provided Turkey with the promised funding to support 3.6 million refugees within its borders. Following this, hundreds of refugee communities in the country rushed towards the border with the hopes of gaining entry into Europe, and according to interviews conducted on the ground by Amnesty International representatives, there were free buses ready to transport them to the border region. This political move to pressure the EU into more cooperation once again came at the expense of these migrants flooding the border, where they were pushed back violently by the Greek border security.Continue reading “People or Pawns? The case of refugees at the crux of Greece-Turkey relations”