The migration policy of the European Union, which relies on the externalization of borders as a cornerstone, is also accompanied by a growing effort to sign international agreements for third countries to accept the readmission of irregular migrants who are not it has given them the right to stay in Europe. The new Migration and Asylum Pact reiterates these ideas and specifies that effective returns require better procedures within the EU.
The Commission annually assesses the cooperation on readmission with non-EU countries and reports to the Council. In presenting the first factual assessment of the cooperation for readmission, the Vice-President for Promotion of the European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, insisted that “the EU is using all the instruments at its disposal, from visa policy to cooperation for development, investment, trade and employment, in order to achieve a more balanced and comprehensive approach to cooperation on migration. The effective return and reinstatement are a key element of this puzzle ”.
Readmission agreements are international treaties in which each actor has something to contribute and something to gain. Based on this, a negotiation takes place, a tug of war that ends in a handshake. This is the format used to decide the fate of thousands of vulnerable people. Although the readmission of citizens of one’s own country, who reside illegally in another state, is an obligation under international law, the agreements promoted by the EU seek to make third states agree to readmit people who, on their way to Europe, have passed through that territory. To date, the Union has signed readmission agreements with 17 countries, including Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine and Cape Verde, and is in the process of negotiating new agreements with Nigeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Currently, the return of migrants to their countries is presented as one of the central solutions to the migratory crisis that the Canary Islands are going through, which requires an analysis of previous experiences and results in other external borders of the community space.
The example of Turkey
The relations between the EU and Turkey illustrate the dynamics of international negotiation, in which the countries of the Union look away from the promotion and defense of human rights to fulfill domestic political objectives. Relations between Brussels and Ankara have been marked by Turkey’s status as a candidate to join the Union club. Negotiations leading to potential membership have been frozen since Tayyip Erdoğan came to power in 2014, whose policies have led to the demolition of the democratic pillars of the Republic, with growing censorship, persecution of opponents and centralization of power around the figure of the president. The use of police violence, the instrumentalization of justice for political purposes and the constant threat of any dissenting opinion were harshly criticized by Antonio Tajani, former president of the European Parliament.
Despite this, the Agreement between the EU and Turkey on readmissions was signed in 2014 and contains provisions specifying that Turkey will have the obligation to readmit any person who illegally enters European territory after having transited through the territory. Turkish. In return, the EU promised to provide financial support to Turkey, as well as to facilitate the acceptance of entry visas to the Schengen territory for Turkish nationals. In 2015, the Joint Action Plan was launched, aimed at promoting the asylum and refugee policy in Turkey, with an economic contribution from the countries of the Union of 3 billion euros under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.
Cooperation was intensified in 2016 with a joint statement drawn up in the context of the refugee crisis. A human drama produced by the desperate flight of thousands of people trying to escape the growing tension of the conflict in Syria, with the last and only purpose of saving their lives. The international organization Human Rights Watch has criticized Turkey’s lack of effective protection for Syrians, existing border restrictions imposed by the Erdoğan regime, and a history of police abuse. These circumstances have entailed the risk of denial of access to asylum and the possibility of blocking the passage from Syria to Turkey. Furthermore, placing control of the European border in the hands of Turkey has turned the EU into a dependent actor, which loses capacity for strategic negotiation and is cornered by threats from the Turkish executive regarding the unilateral suspension of the pact, as has already happened. in 2019.
The geopolitical game implies that the European Union offers direct financing or visa liberalization for nationals of non-EU member countries, in exchange for these countries readmitting not only their own nationals, but those who have crossed the territory. In practice, this means diverting migration flows and endangering the lives and dignity of migrants, who end up finding themselves in a country they do not know, with the same or even fewer economic opportunities that they had in their countries of origin and away from their social core of support. Efforts for integration remain in the hands of the national policies of third countries, escaping from European control and the requirements regarding the protection of human rights that the migration policy seeks to guarantee. The lack of effective mechanisms that guarantee humane treatment to migrants, once they have been readmitted to countries other than their countries of origin, calls into question the morality of this practice and shakes the guiding principles of the so-called “European way of life” .
Respect for human rights, an emphasis on integration policies and the fight against smuggling of human beings should be the fundamental vectors of readmission agreements. Encouraging the readmission of migrants arriving on the Canary Islands without carrying out a prior study of the geostrategic consequences of this policy may result in the fate of hundreds of thousands of people being reduced to an element of blackmail in international negotiations.