The EU, Turkey and Refugees: The need for humanitarian approaches

The world is experiencing the highest levels of human displacement ever, with over seventy million people affected around the world.  The conflicts in Syria and the wider Middle East have caused millions of people to flee their homes and livelihoods.  In 2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, recognising the need for increased global cooperation to address the situation of refugees through a humanitarian, people-focused approach. 

Confronting the challenge of large numbers of refugees seeking new lives in Europe as a consequence of displacement from war and conflict in Syria and Iraq, the EU and Turkey reached a series of agreements that led to Turkey undertaking to restrict the flow of people – an arrangement that continues to affect some 3.5 million humans in need.

This paper argues that the agreements struck between the EU and Turkey for controlling the refugee situation have not maintained a humanitarian approach.  Instead, they have been, and continue to be, marked by a divisive and politicised discourse that reflects underlying tensions between the two parties rather than addressing the urgent requirements of a vulnerable population.  This paper addresses the problems created by the EU-Turkey approach to handling refugees and explores options for pursuing a more humanitarian approach.

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