Is the EU moving refugees from one danger zone to another?

Mehwisch Khan
Joint Honours (Law and European Languages) student at the University of Hertfordshire

The agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey aims to address the overwhelming flow of irregular migrants and asylum seekers traveling from Turkey to the EU, in efforts to enter into Europe by dangerous means. In return, EU Member States will resettle Syrian refugees in Turkey and provide financial help for Turkey’s refugees. The idea of returns coupled with large-scale resettlement seems reasonable and achievable only from a utopian perspective. However, following close analysis of the agreement since its implementation, there are serious human rights concerns raised by Amnesty International and Member States.[1] There are also well-documented limitations of the existing asylum mechanism and the protection of fundamental rights in “safe third countries”. This allows for only one conclusion: refugees and migrants are being transported from one dangerous war zone such as Syria to another equally dangerous zone, Turkey, only this time the dangers are in a different form with the protection of basic human rights still being endangered.

Refugees could be granted asylum status if they succeed in entering Europe and if they also succeed in their asylum application.[2] However, EU law seriously prevents refugees and migrants from arriving into Europe.[3] The EU-Turkey agreement is one recent measure which intends to manage influx. The agreement seeks to warn and put off refugees from risking their lives to enter Europe, as it often involves using dangerous means such as using small boats or other smuggling methods.[4] In reality, the strict visa requirements from Member States and now from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, combined with the desperate desire to reach Europe’s borders has led to a more chaotic management of the migration flow, putting more lives at danger than before.[5] In the face of a growing global refugee crisis, and increasing numbers of refugees trying to reach Europe, the EU is failing to introduce safe and legal routes; instead the Member States have gone to even stricter lengths to prohibit entry into Europe. As a result, refugees and migrants reside in countries with poor human rights protection and limited opportunities.

Dispersed from their families, friends and cultural identity, refugees cling to their most valuable belongings and migrate to the first place of safety. Yet, once the refugees reach Turkey still they risk their lives to continue their journey to Europe. This is a concept many Europeans struggle with. In Turkey, laws and regulations constrain the right for refugees to work as dentists, nurses, pharmacist and lawyers.[6] Most migrants in Turkey are working in the informal economy, where children and adults are at the risk of exploitative treatment. UN agencies report that Syrian refugees in Turkey are “often subject to exploitation discrimination and harassment”.[7] In light of such evidence, it is hard to accept that Turkey is a “safe a third country”. The EU-Turkey agreement forces people to live in undignified conditions. Due to the backlog of asylum applications in Turkey currently, reaching a final decision can take years, forcing people to live in a limbo of uncertainty.[8] In the EU refugees can attempt to rebuild their lives where human rights and labour rights are well established in comparison to Turkey or other third countries.

Solidarity based on human rights has been at the core of the EU law. However, Europe’s deal with Turkey does not reflect these underpinning principles. Therefore, European institutions are urged to re-evaluate the current EU-Turkey deal and create new outsourcing methods which are founded on a sense of responsibility towards refugees and asylum seekers. Turkey should also share this sense of moral duty and adhere to international human rights. All countries within and outside of the EU should strive towards a pluralistic and tolerant society where those who are escaping danger are met with forbearing attitudes and where the protection of human rights also is actually enforced in practice.


[1] Amnesty International, (2016) Asylum seekers and refugees denied effective protection in Turkey

June 2016 <> 16th January 2017

[2] Council Directive (EC) 2005/85 On Minimum Standards On Procedures In Member States For Granting and Withdrawing Refugees Status [2005] OJL326

[3] Joanna Lenart, ‘Fortress Europe: Compliance of The Dublin II Pregulation With The European Convention For The protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” [2012] Utrecht Journal of International and European Law, Merkourios, vol 28/75

[4] Illegal Migration to EU rises for routes both well worn and less travelled March 2016 <> Accessed 21st January 2017

[5] Europe’s refugee crisis: A perfect storm February 2016 <’s-refugee&gt; accessed 10th January 2017

[6] Refugee Rights Turkey, “Access to Labor Market for Syrian Refugees and Other Persons under ‘Temporary Protection’,” <> accessed 9th January 2017 p 3

[7] Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2016-2017 in Response to the Syria Crisis – Turkey2015 <> accessed 6th January 2017  page 70


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