The UK and Turkey have unveiled an agreement to tackle the pressing problem of migration in the Mediterranean region.
The announcement, reported by Reuters on Wednesday, reignited talks about the deal’s potential impact on Ankara’s already heavy humanitarian responsibilities.
The Turkish government has not yet officially reacted to this alleged agreement.
Amid upcoming elections in both countries, the refugee crisis remains a major concern, prompting the governments of the UK and Turkey to pledge to stem the influx of migrants crossing their borders.
The pact should allow the United Kingdom to increase its financial support and aid to Turkey, in particular to support efforts to manage migration flows.
This assistance will encompass a wide range of initiatives, from improving maritime border security training to deploying state-of-the-art customs detection equipment.
A recent Guardian investigation revealed that the UK has paid more than £3 million (£1 = 1.16 euro) to Turkish border forces over the past year to prevent migrants from crossing into Turkey. go to the UK.
The outlines of the deal also include provisions for sharing customs data, conducting joint law enforcement operations to dismantle human trafficking networks and disrupting the supply chain responsible for transporting hundreds small boats and related components across Europe.
The agreement does not currently address the issue of the repatriation of rejected Turkish asylum seekers. Indeed, since Brexit, there is still no official return protocol between the two countries.
So far, Turkey has only reached an agreement with the EU for the readmission of irregular migrants who have crossed its territory.
British Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick recently visited Turkey to prepare this historic agreement.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “This partnership with our dear ally Turkey will allow our law enforcement authorities to work together to meet this international challenge and disrupt the illicit small boat supply chain.
Turkey has Europe’s busiest border crossing at Kapikule and some 1,486 Turkish nationals in small boats attempted to enter the UK through the English Channel in the first seven months of the year, which places them in second position after the Afghans who attempt the crossing.
The UK government has unveiled plans to create a ‘centre of excellence’ under the Turkish National Police.
This initiative aims to strengthen the collaborative relationship between the authorities of the two countries and to accelerate the exchange of real-time information on refugees.
Turkey’s current status as an undesignated ‘safe home’ country under the Illegal Immigration Act has made the UK Parliament aware of the need to change its legislation to include Ankara in the list.
This anticipated amendment should spark a heated debate.
Under the law passed last month, the Home Secretary is responsible for detaining and deporting people arriving in the UK illegally, either to Rwanda or to another ‘safe’ third country.
Jon Featonby, chief policy analyst at the Refugee Council, wrote on Twitter: ‘The future small craft deal appears to incorporate a repatriation deal with Turkey which may prove inconsequential once the immigration law unlawful will come into force.”
“This legislation stipulates that Turkish nationals seeking asylum cannot be repatriated to Turkey,” he added.
This landmark deal is set to take center stage at the upcoming UK-Turkey migration dialogue, due to take place in London this autumn.
Meanwhile, the UK this week began housing asylum seekers on a barge, the Bibby Stockholm.
Horizon, the English Channel
This Friday, the migrants were temporarily evacuated from the barge after traces of legionella were found in the water system on board.
The move is part of the government’s controversial plan to deal with the large number of people arriving in the UK on small craft and to cut spending on hosting refugees.
As local elections approach, Turkish police forces are expected to step up their operations against irregular migrants in the country and further target smugglers by cracking down on migration routes.
Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya recently announced that Turkish police have carried out more than 2,000 operations in the fight against smuggling networks and arrested more than 1,300 people.
Basak Yavcan, research director at the Migration Policy Group in Brussels, believes the UK has a general policy of externalization with many countries around the world.
“The consequences of this policy with France off Calais, on the northern coast of France, have resulted in major human rights violations,” she told Arab News.
Migrants continue to try to cross the Channel to reach the United Kingdom, despite an agreement between London and Paris aimed at strengthening police control capacities.
According to Yavcan, this policy has not proven to be very effective because it does not address the root causes of migration.
She said: “In the past, it backfired on Belarus and Morocco. It leads to human rights violations because it allows these third countries to manage illegal immigration as they see fit.”
“If the UK plans something similar to what it did with Rwanda in the future, Turkey may become a country where migrants are held in large numbers.”
It is also problematic to label a country that still hosts large numbers of refugees in Europe a ‘safe country’ on the basis of human rights concerns.
“Each application for refugee status is individual. In some cases, an applicant could face certain risks of persecution because of their particular situation,” Yavcan said.
Begum Basdas, a researcher at Amnesty International’s regional office for Europe, believes there is nothing the UK government is not doing to make asylum seekers feel unwelcome and unsafe.
“We must recognize that Turkey continues to host the largest number of refugees in the region, and it is important that the international community shares responsibility and does not shirk that,” she told Arab News. .
She argued: “There is a backdrop of rising racist anti-refugee rhetoric from politicians in the UK and Turkey — there is also an increase in illegal refugee returns, so any deal struck with Turkey must put human rights at the centre.”
This article is originally published on arabnews.fr