Ankara – ESI at brainstorming session on migration cooperation at the Dutch embassy

3 July 2023
Gerald Knaus and Ambassador Joep Wijnands
Gerald Knaus and Ambassador Joep Wijnands. Photo: ESI 

ESI’s Gerald Knaus was invited to give a presentation on “Migration, EU borders, and Turkey” at a brainstorming session organised by the Dutch embassy in Ankara.

In the first part of his presentation, Gerald focused on the need for a renewed EU-Turkey Statement by showing facts and numbers on Aegean crossings from Turkey, apprehensions, pushbacks, and deaths at sea. He also compared how the numbers of crossings declined significantly in the first years of the EU-Turkey statement and explained why a renewed agreement could prevent deaths at sea and give protection to those who need it. 

In the second part of his presentation, Gerald emphasised the importance of humane policy-making and diplomatic cooperation to reduce irregular migration, disincentivize risky sea crossings, and thus prevent deaths. He argued that for this to work, European countries need to conclude agreements with safe third countries which would allow to transfer irregular migrants to countries willing to receive them instead of the current practice of violent pushbacks at the EU’s external borders. This would be a way to combine migration control with respect for the Geneva refugee convention and the rule of law. Such migration agreements need to be based on mutual interests and benefits for both parties.

For all of this to work, coalitions within the EU are crucial. Gerald suggested that France and Germany could take the lead and coordinate with the United Kingdom, agreeing to take back anyone irregularly crossing from the EU to the UK, starting from a cutoff date this summer. In return, the UK would agree to accept up to 40,000 recognised refugees or asylum seekers who have ties to the UK from these partner countries annually for the next three years. This approach facilitates rapid returns, ensures protection for those in need in a safe third country, dissuades perilous channel crossings and asserts control.

A renewed EU-Turkey Statement could set a precedent for subsequent migration agreements. At the same time, it would establish legal pathways and benefits for the citizens of third countries, such as visa liberalisation, educational exchange programmes and labour migration schemes.

Diplomatic representatives from Germany, France, Austria, and Denmark participated in the meeting.

Photo: ESI
Photo: ESI