As the Syrian Civil War enters its sixth year, the Syrian refugee crisis becomes more and more drastic, and questions of how to best handle it oft go unanswered. Some countries, whose economies were struggling prior to the mass influx of refugees, have started to deport refugees back to their home countries because the host country cannot sustain its own population as well as thousands upon thousands of refugees. Others have tightened restrictions on who is and is not allowed to receive refugee status.
In the latest attempt to mitigate the crisis, the European Union has struck a deal with Turkey to send illegal migrants going from Turkey to Greece back to Turkey if the Grecian government does not accept their claim for asylum. These migrants could be from anywhere, not just Syria. In exchange, countries in the EU will pay to help resettle a Syrian migrant already living in Turkey. It has been called the "one-for-one agreement", or "one-in, one-out deal," and will apply for up to 72,000 Syrians living in Turkey. The EU and Turkey hope that this will discourage migrants from making the dangerous journey across the eastern Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
Turkey also receives other benefits for collaborating with the EU. By June, Turkish nationals will be able to access the Schengen Area, which is comprised of 26 European countries that do not use passports at their borders. For instance, you would not need a passport to travel from Italy to France, because both of those countries are in the Schengen Area. EU countries have also agreed to help "re-energize" talks in July concerning Turkey's potential incorporation into the European Union, which would give Turkey access to the legal, economic, and political benefits of EU membership.
The EU and Turkey have been working together to address the migrant crisis officially since the end of 2015. Some of their prior agreements include the opening of Turkey's labor market to Syrians unders temporary protection, increased Turkish security efforts, and the dispersal of €3 billion (approximately $3.3 billion) in Turkey for "concrete projects," which likely means financially supporting refugee encampments and resettlement efforts.
The agreement, however, is not without its criticisms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while overall supportive of the deal, expects future legal complications that may undermine the agreement in practice. Human rights group Amnesty International has called the deal "dangerously dehumanising," and also claims it "offers no sustainable long term solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis." Others believe that the scope of the agreement is unrealistically narrow. The EU has stipulated that only up to 72,000 Syrians living in Turkey would be resettled, but over 135,000 refugees have entered Europe since January alone.
We cannot know for certain whether this agreement will bode well for the millions of Syrian refugees seeking peace and freedom, but we do know that something must be done, and maybe this is a step in the right direction.