Refugee Resettlement in Crisis: The Failure of the EU-Turkey Deal and the Case for Burden-Sharing. By M. McEWEN


Refugee Resettlement in Crisis: The Failure of the EU-Turkey Deal and the Case for Burden-Sharing. By M. McEWEN

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Cite as: McEwen, M., 2017, "Refugee Resettlement in Crisis: The failure of the EU-Turkey Deal and the Case of Burden-Sharing". Swarthmore International Relations Journal, 1(2), pp.20-32.


At this moment in history, the scale of forced migration has reached unprecedented levels. Due to the increase in civil wars and repressive regimes, the global population of people forcibly displaced from their homes has grown from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, a record high (UNHCR 2016, 5). The current crisis in Syria has dramatically added to the number of forced migrants in recent years and has brought the “refugee1 crisis” center stage as one of the most urgent international concerns today. While many have discussed international attempts to address the structural causes of forced migration, those causes are unlikely to be resolved soon. The refugee crisis is a long-term trend rather than a temporary phenomenon, because the number of chronically fragile states is growing, while opportunities for mobility are increasing (Betts 2015). Therefore, it is imperative to address the consequence of those structural problems—the millions displaced and in need of protection. This paper will zero in on one demonstrative example of the current international policy response to refugee protection in Europe—the recent EU-Turkey deal and its shortcomings as a solution to the crisis. While the deal is successful at reducing the number of irregular arrivals to the EU, it fails at its legal and ethical obligation to protect refugees. The deal fails to protect because its underlying objective is not protection, but rather border control via “burden-shifting,” the transferring of responsibility onto other states. By outsourcing the refugee crisis to Turkey and forcing Greece to deal with refugees alone as the rest of the EU closes their borders, protection has deteriorated. As a result of the deal, refugees are crowded into under-resourced detention centers with unsafe conditions. In addition, the deal could hurt the European economy and threaten international security. This paper will examine: (1) the terms of the EU-Turkey deal, (2) the humanitarian, economic, and global security consequences of its burden-shifting approach, (3) and the flawed legal framework, national interests, and short-sighted conceptualization of the crisis that beget burden-shifting. Finally, this paper will propose tradable refugee quotas with a matching mechanism as a possible policy solution for the EU sharing its responsibility to protect refugees.

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