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Experts weigh in on the outlook for the EU’s migrant deal with Turkey

Turkey and the European Union reached an agreement Friday over solutions to the ongoing migrant crisis in Eastern Europe, with Turkey taking back Syrian refugees currently stranded in Greece in exchange for financial aid and closer travel and political ties to the EU. Jeffrey Brown asks Matthew Karnitschnig of Politico and special correspondent Malcolm Brabant for more information on the deal.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    We return to the major European-Turkish agreement on how to cope with the refugee crisis.

    Jeffrey Brown has the story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Under the deal agreed to today, Turkey will take back Syrian refugees now in Greece, Europe will accept some refugees now in Turkey, and Turkey will get financial and closer travel and political ties to Europe.

    Joining us from Brussels, Matthew Karnitschnig, chief Europe correspondent for Politico, and in Copenhagen, the "NewsHour"'s Malcolm Brabant.

    Welcome to both of you.

    Matthew, let me start with you.

    So, for Europe, the idea is fewer refugees and a more orderly process. How is this supposed to work? Fill in the details a bit.

  • MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG, Politico:

    Well, at the core of this deal is this mechanism that you mentioned whereby the Turks will take back all Syrian refugees who arrive in Greece, and, in return, the Europeans would take a certain number, one to one, essentially, of the Syrian refugees now in Turkey.

    The idea is this would undermine the smugglers' trade, which is responsible for bringing all of these refugees in rubber rafts and so forth to Greece at the moment, and Angela Merkel and the other European leaders hope that this will convince Syrians and other migrants not to come to Europe in the first place, that they will see that it's pointless to try to come with the smugglers because they will automatically be sent back.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But, Malcolm, of course, sending these back, all those people stranded in Greece, raises enormous logistical and legal challenges, right?

    We have already had a lot of criticism on the legal side from Amnesty International, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. How hard will this be to do?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    This is going to be extremely difficult to implement. It's going to be a logistical nightmare.

    Trying to deport thousands of people is going to be a huge task that is going to create some really ugly scenes, because you have got these people who have spent thousands of dollars getting to Greece suddenly facing the prospect of being sent back.

    They're not going to meekly and mildly. There are going to be fights and struggles going on in these various places. Now, what's supposed to also happen is that these people are supposed to also have their appeals for asylum being fast-tracked.

    And Greece has got a dreadful reputation for trying to fast-track anything. Trying to determine whether or not somebody is a serious asylum-seeker, a justified asylum-seeker, is something that's supposed to happen almost instantly, especially as the UNHCR, for example, is saying that everybody needs to have the right to appeal.

    So, I foresee chaos in the Greek islands.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, so, Matthew, are there any plans in the details what more Europe is planning to do to make the process work better? And also explain to what is — from the Turkish side, what's in it for them?

  • MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG:

    Well, the Europeans are saying now they recognize, of course, that Greece, which is in the midst of this economic crisis, really an economic depression, is not going to be able to handle this problem alone. They don't have the administration to deal with this many refugees.

    So, the Brussels bureaucrats, if you will, are saying they will send down to up to 4,000 officials, judges, interpreters, and so forth to deal with these processes that they need to introduce here in terms of dealing with the asylum applicants and ensuring that they get a fair review of their case.

    But to think that this is going to happen within 48 hours, because they're also saying that they want to introduce this program starting on Sunday, is somewhat ambitious, to put it mildly. So, there is a lot of skepticism here in Brussels and elsewhere in Europe about whether this plan is going to be dead on arrival, essentially.

    What's in it for the Turks is that the Turks get visa liberalization, as they're calling it, which means that Turkish citizens, if they meet a number of — if Turkey meets a number of requirements in the coming months, will be able to travel into the E.U. without visas, which would be a huge political win for Turkish President Erdogan, who has really been trying to show to his people that, despite all of the criticism of Turkey and his rule in Turkey, his increasingly authoritarian rule, many people say, that they are still part of the West, that the West still accepts them and takes them seriously.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Well, Malcolm, you have reported from Turkey. You have been talking to people there. Well, is it likely that this would discourage people from making the trip at this point, and what are you hearing from Turkey now?

  • MALCOLM BRABANT:

    Well, I was talking to a refugee organization boss in Izmir, which is — used to be the main smuggling zone.

    And this is a town that was normally thriving with smugglers and with Syrians and other refugees coming to try to get a deal to try to get across the Aegean. But in the past couple of weeks, the Turks have cracked town, the smugglers have all gone, and all of the would-be asylum seekers are hiding in forests along the coast or in safe houses.

    Now, this is a multibillion-dollar business. The smugglers aren't going to take this lying down. They want to make that sort of money. And so they're going to be looking for other routes, possibly land routes, through to Europe.

    But I have been talking to other people, for example, refugees who are stuck in Greece. And one man in particular, Edriss Bayat, that we have looked at, we have met before on the "NewsHour," he's a former NATO employee from Afghanistan, now, he's at the former Athens airport, where — along with lots of other refugees.

    The one thing that he's been worried about more than anything else is deportation. But, under this deal, he's not going to be deported, but he, along with about 50,000 other people who are currently stranded in Greece, nobody's really certain what is going to happen to them.

    And Greece could become a detention camp for these people, although Europe is saying, for example, that some of these people will be shared around other European countries. But so far, that is something that has not happened.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen and Matthew Karnitschnig in Brussels, thank you both very much.

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