After Paris: Refugees trapped in bazaar negotiation

The Eiffel Tower illuminated in the colors of the French flag in tribute to the victims of the November 13t Paris terror attacks.

Photo by: XtoF. Christophe Meneboeuf.

With the Paris terror attack shocking the world, and more EU politicians calling for border control and a harder stance towards refugees. The will to a united EU-solution on the refugee crisis is postponed and replaced with a Turkish deal, which throws the refugees right into the crossfire between EU and Erdogans Bazaar, says expert.

By Anna Rigas and Esben Harboe

Police are everywhere in Brussels, patrolling streets alongside heavily armed soldiers dressed to kill. Weeks after the Paris Shooting, Europe is more tense than ever, vigilant against the possible risk of a new terrorist strike towards its inhabitants.

However, the EU is divided amongst itself, and unable to take any definite actions towards the steady stream of refugees, Europe is forced to take action says Demetrios Papademetriou, director of the independent think tank, The Migration Policy Institute.

“The Paris attacks pushed forward a demand among people to see the EU leaders taking action,” says Mr. Papademetriou. “Though the events in Paris and the Refugee crisis call for different political solution- it will all be mixed together now,” Mr. Papademetriou fears.

Refugees will have to demonstrate that they come from a region that is hell and that they can not go back. Everyone will be questioned much more and a lot of people will be sent back,” the Migration Expert says.

This create a significant change in the EU, Mr. Papademetriou explains, as the nation states makes a comeback to the spotlight of the political stage, with sovereignty as one of their defining features.

“Protecting their citizens become the number one priority,” the Migration Expert says.

This is a message supported by many Europeans, due to the possibility that one or more of the terrorists from the Paris attacks entered Europe through one of the refugee-routes, that immediately caused a social media shitstorm against refugees, with several European leaders tripping over each other to comment either positively or negatively about the topic.

Poland’s government said in a statement that in the wake of the attacks on Paris, it would stop participation in the EU’s resettlement plan for the thousands of refugees attempting to reach Europe. “After the tragic events of Paris, we do not see the political possibility of respecting the plan,” Poland’s European affairs minister, Konrad Szymanski, wrote in a statement.

And the Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orbán said ”all the terrorist are basically migrants.”
Followed by the country completely rejecting any refugees who aren’t from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, resulting in many refugees from other areas being stuck at their borders.

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Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesvos island, Greece.
Photo by: Ggia.

Only Turkey can stem the tide of refugees
Therefore EU was on a tight schedule sealing the deal with Turkey. Ended out with the two parts reaching an agreement sunday 29 of November, much to Turkeys delight, with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu calling it a “historic day” in Turkey’s relations with the EU.

Turkey will receive 3 billion euro annually and receive political concessions in return for clamping down on its western borders and keeping refugees in the country. As a result of the deal, Turkish citizens will also be able to travel without visas in Europe’s Schengen zone, which allows free movement between many European countries, by October 2016.

But this might very well be the first of many concessions that the EU must give to Turkey, while trying to strike a balance with a partner, that doesn’t play by the rules, says Papademetriou.

”Turkey’s President Erdogan is politically shaped by situations where negotiations are in a bazaar-like environment. You start with ridiculous claims by saying “I like your watch – how much” and then both parts give and take – but the shots are being called by Erdogan,” says Papademetriou.

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A police officer in front of the European Parliament.

Photo by: Esben Harboe.

Division of the many

The war in Syria and Iraq has let to a historically large amount of refugees fleeing from their homes, with as many as 4 million fleeing from Syria, while an even larger amount are internally displaced within Syria. The majority of the Syrians have taken refuge at the countries bordering Syria, while 1 million refugees of different nationalities have made their way to Europe.

This matter created a new divide between the Member states of the EU a long time before the Paris shootings took place, but the tensions existing beforehand has become remarkably clear since the dramatic event. This concerns Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake from The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

“I’m afraid there is an eagerness and rush to try to bring the risks of terrorism in relation to the risk of refugees. Both are very serious topics, but we should not put them in the same pile,” Marietje Schaake says.

The European Parliament proposed a united division of refugees between all member states and a common approach to deal with registration of refugees a long time ago, but only countries like Germany and Sweden volunteered to take in a huge amount of refugees.

Since then, both countries have within months reinstated the border controls from Germany to Austria, and Sweden to Denmark, with Sweden moving away from an open and benign refugee policy with asylum to all refugees, to a “EU Minimum” policy only ensuring temporary residence permits.

This surprising turn of events happened because both countries were unable to deal with the huge incoming amount on their own.

Nation States awakening

The recent events in Paris show that countries have started to think like countries again, instead of a European Union, earlier pointed out by migration expert Demetrios Papademetriou and he explains how the right-wing parties know that they have the momentum to pledge for even harsher legislation.

An example of this is Denmark. Just few days after Sweden implemented border controls, the Danish government introduced harsher rules for family reunification, which meant that refugees will have to wait 3 years before they can get their families to Denmark.

And in the 3rd of december, Denmark will have a referendum on replacing it’s “opt-out” on EU justice- and home affairs with an “opt-in” model, similar to the one used by Ireland and the UK.

But opting in on the common migration policy is definitely not on the table, says Danish MEP Magrete Auken from the Green party – which is a big shame, she states.

”It is sad to see how afraid Denmark is to commit to any kind of cooperation with the European Union. We could show Europe that we want to take responsibility instead of only  participating in the issues that only benefit us,” she says, and continues:

“We bury our heads in the sand, close our eyes and hope that the other EU countries will solve the problems for us – it is hypocritical. And as long as this huge amount of refugees aren’t stopping, it seems like the only solution the Danish politicians can imagine is a race to the bottom to make Denmark as unattractive as possible,” says MEP Auken.

Danish People’s Party: Not enough

But it is only natural that a country protects is sovereignty and it’s borders, says member of the Danish parliament from the right-wing Danish People’s Party, Martin Henriksen in an interview with the public broadcaster in Denmark.

“Germany and Sweden have invited all immigrants and refugees in the world to come to Europe with their far too generous immigration policies. Therefore, the rest of the European countries have to try and protect their countries as best as they can,” says the Danish politician, who doesn’t think that the Danish government is doing enough to stop the flow of asylum seekers into Denmark.

“Our government has clearly lost its grip on the current migration crisis – therefore we suggest that the family reunification for refugees get delayed up till 5 years,” he states.

The Danish People’s Party, the second largest party in the country, finds plenty of popular support for their tight policy on immigration. However, this surge of popularity has a downside. As pretty much all right-wing parties are gaining support for their views, they unintentionally put themselves at risk, says Demetrios Papademetriou.

“There is no doubt, that the Right-Wing parties at the moment stand as winners, which can directly be seen with Le Penns Front National or the Sweden Democrats, who stand to gain tremendously in the polls. But for how long? If they make a misstep, they lose their momentum completely. So, the next six month will determine which right-wing parties are smart enough to avoid crucial mistakes, and who will end up becoming too extreme for the regular voter to accept” Mr. Papademetriou states.

Erdogans bazaar bargain

Because of the return of the nation states and the weakening of EU’s international bargaining position, the advantage of future refugee negotiations, is now in the hands of Turkeys President Erdogan.

“EU has no choice but to accept Erdogans future demands. The three billion euros, which EU and Turkey agreed upon, is merely a down payment. In order to do the things that really help the refugees in Turkey, create proper lives, jobs and proper education, a lot of the money EU pays to Turkey will initially go to help the local Turkish populace reach a better quality of life, before any improvements are made for the Syrians in Turkey,” Demetrios Papademetriou imagines.

If EU are to make more payments of this kind available over time, it will depend on how successful Turkey manages its borders and if they can stop the refugee flood, says Marietje Schaake.

“I am not convinced they are able to manage the outflux of refugees and so, their part of the promise, in terms of managing their borders, offering opportunities for Syrians to stay in Turkey and treating them well are yet to be seen. If it’s a success, I am sure we can build on it, but seeing is believing,” she says.

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Can the EU institutions be of any aid in stopping the refugee crisis? Or is peace really out of the question?

Photo: Esben Harboe

“No peace without Justice”

The 18th of november, the Syrian Civil War was discussed in an open hearing in the European Parliament, helmed by the European liberals from the ALDE group.

In the hearing, initiated by Marietje Schaake, a panel of speakers ranging from a Lebanese lawyer, an American expert on foreign relations and the vice president of the Syrian National Coalition, all gave detailed insight into the situation in and around of Syria, and how the crisis had created one of the largest refugee situations ever.

“It is important that we go back in our discussions, to the people that are impacted the most, the people of Syria. First we have to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem, which for years has not happened. Now that we know the scale of the challenge, which is a complex combination of the Syrian Civil War, the terrorist threat, the humanitarian disaster and the human suffering, then you have to justify making more means available to deal with the problems. But it requires a step by step increase in leadership from the EU,” says Marietje Schaake.

One of the speakers, 85 year old Haitham al-Maleh, a former judge and political activist from Damascus, Syria, took the stage.

“350.000 dead.

..

55.000 killed by torture.

..

1600 killed by ISIS.

..

4 million externally displaced.

..

2,5 million children.. “He breaks down for a moment, and shakingly regains his composure,

“2,5 million children without education and school,” He goes on for a while, clinically listing numerous other categories of the dead and displaced.

The end of the speech draws near, “There must be peace in Syria. There must be peace with Assad. But no peace without Justice,” he ends.

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