Today is the day that the EU begins its forced deportations from Greek islands back to Turkey. Rioting broke out all around Greece this weekend as the police tried to persuade desperate people who have fled Isis and Assad and Russian bombs and trekked across Turkey and paid thousands to get across the Aegean – to go back. “We are expecting violence. People in despair tend to be violent,” a Greek government spokesman said, describing human life in a media-friendly understatement.
The one-in-one-out deal involves this: the EU will take one “legal” Syrian asylum seeker from Turkey for every “illegal” Syrian refugee Turkey takes from Greece. The idea is to knock out the market for traffickers, because theoretically no refugee will pay to get across the sea if they face being sent back. The problem is, of course, that refugees only get the reward of a legal trip into the EU if another refugee is punished with deportation for taking the illegal route. Meanwhile, thousands will be left waiting in Turkey and thousands more sent back from Greece.
It’s a twisty, complicated and probably illegal deal, and it’s also dabbling into market manipulation instead of taking moral responsibility. Or you could say it means Europe is trying to buy its way out of responsibility by paying cash and promises to the Turkish government – a Turkish government that is now being even more repressive. And the refugees will probably just end up trying to bypass Turkey and taking the much more dangerous route via Libya anyway.
The whole thing stinks. A million people. In a year. A million people moving into a continent of 500 million people over a year. That was all it took for Europe to lose its shit and wimp out of all the principles it dragged from the end of World War II (when there were about 12 to 14 million refugees wandering around a destroyed Europe). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN refugee convention, and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – all dumped out in favour to be replaced by a shady deal because of right-wing pressure. But – and this is the gamble – it might be enough to keep Merkel in power against the rise of the right. Europe just pussied out.
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