Europe is buying itself some good neighbors. After weeks of negotiations, Turkey today “promised to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visas and renewed talks on joining the EU.” Wasting no time, Turkey’s authorities swiftly rounded up 1,300 refugees on its beaches hours later.
This deal is a yet another case of the EU getting other countries to protect its borders. As far back as 2006, Morocco got €67 million in order to keep refugees and other bureaucratically disadvantaged people from “irregularly” entering Europe. Since there’s no “regular” way to get in, this means Morocco kept them from entering Europe at all. No entry into Europe means no asylum request, and thus no responsibilities for European authorities. This was treated as a “test site for the future of immigration control, delegating [the EU’s] defenses against immigrants to neighboring countries.”
As a result of this barely legal wizardry, Spain has almost completely freed itself of refugee arrivals. The migrant flow shifted to Italy for a while, until similar agreements were set up with Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Little thought was given to the treatment of refugees there. In 2014-15 the flow through Greece via Turkey increased rapidly. Now that flow is to be stopped as well.
This is not just bad news for refugees, who will have to resort to ever more expensive and dangerous ways to safety. It also gives bad governments a firm hold on Europe. Last year, for instance, apparently out of the blue, a sudden surge of boat people came to Spain. The number of arrivals was larger than in the whole preceding year. Two sports centers had to be made into shelters. According to a Spanish analyst, this was Morocco’s way of telling Spain “it was not getting something it wanted.” Morocco may also be getting a free hand in its treatment of refugees at home.
The dangers in a similar deal with Turkey are obvious. “Turkey’s president has drastically contained freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the independence of the judiciary,” the Financial Times notes. We can bet Europe won’t be doing much about that, or about Erdogan’s treatment of the Kurdish minority, anytime soon. Human rights groups are worried, and with good reason.
As for the EU, it will do its best to keep Europe clear of any people it hasn’t personally blessed and accepted. Such a petty immigration policy is completely inappropriate for the crisis refugees are facing. They lack food, they lack security, they lack employment rights and societal support. They need entrance to safety and prosperity. Europe’s message, however, underlined by the Paris attacks, seems to be clear: terrorism, war and misery may well exist. But they shall not affect the richest continent on Earth.