What I Didn’t Know About the Refugee Crisis in Greece and the EU-Turkey Deal

It was this Monday morning and I was on my way to catch a Secaucus train to Penn Station. My daily routine has always been to turn on NPR in my car and scan The Skimm headlines in the mornings. This is both due to my own curiosity of current events and that pressing sense of responsibility I have to be an informed citizen.

I didn’t expect in the midst of hearing of Georgia’s special election and the equivocal nature of the FBI’s Russia investigation to hear a recording of refugee screams. I was caught pretty off guard as NPR dived into the refugee crisis in Greece. I knew that thousands of Syrian refugees migrated towards the Greek isles and other neighboring countries but I was unaware to what extent the refugee situation exacerbated.

In fact after the EU-Turkey deal you would assume that these Syrian refugees had better prospects to secure safety. If anything this simple news story has taught me is that the media really defines our lens into world events. We start prioritizing which news matters most to us, and forget stories such as this.

What was the EU-Turkey deal? (amnesty.org)

In March of 2016, European leaders met in Brussels Belgium to decide that every person arriving irregularly on the Greek isles including asylum seekers should be returned to Turkey. Turkey would receive 6 billion Euros in return to assist the vast refugee committees and Turkey nationals would have visa-free travel. Also not to mention once a certain threshold of refugees transported to Turkey would have been reached, then the transfer of Syrians to other countries would be activated.  

The journalists at NPR were was discussing the refugee crisis in Greece and how hundreds of misplaced refugees were scrambling for asylum. There were recordings of screams in response to a man who had set himself on fire. He was stressed over his lack of chance at securing a safe residence and the uncertainty of a new life altogether. He is not alone as there have been several cases of refugee suicide in the area.

How has the EU-Turkey Deal Failed?

Amnesty International states that “as of 27 February 2017, the number of Syrian refugees transferred to the EU from turkey was 3,565 which is negligible when contrasted against the 2.8  million Syrians currently in Turkey”. So for those Syrians which have left Greece to return to Turkey their prospects of moving to other European nations are low. Another detail to consider is that even making it to Turkey is not in the refugee’s favor as refugees receive temporary protection in Turkey. Turkey has denied full-refugee status to most refugees and their is no way the refugees can support themselves. The horror story continues as Amnesty International states Turkey has even returned refugees back to Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq where their human rights are at even a greater risk.

However, just like the man who burned himself there are several refugees on hold at the Greek islands pictured below living in destitution and unsafe conditions. There is violence between refugees and violence with the natives who target refugees as outsiders.



Turkey complains that the EU has not lived up to their share for monetary contributions and that the flow of money from Brussels is sluggish. Some others argue that European countries just want to transfer the Syrian immigration issue to Turkey and give a blind eye.

I guess it’s just unclear if there will be positive prospects for the refugees still stranded on the Greek isles or even those stranded in Turkey, a country in which the government continually threatens to place a stop on refugee migration.

So is there really a safe haven for these refugees?

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