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Rule of law capture by a Statement | EU-Turkey deal: 5 Years of Shame

From its very inception in early March 2016, the EU-Turkey deal signed on 18 March 2016 was immediately seen for what it was: “The EU is… outsourcing its responsibilities to protect refugees to Turkey, an immoral move which allows it to circumvent its obligations under international and European asylum and human rights law. Trading in people is the dehumanising expression of a failed European asylum policy and of the lack of solidarity within the EU.”[1] The deal was falsely presented by EU leadership as a measure “to offer migrants an alternative to putting their lives at risk”[2] and not as a wish on the part of the EU to block departures of people from Turkey, regardless of their need for protection.[3]

The delivery of the deal over the past five years has come at an unspeakable cost for those seeking refuge in Europe, for local communities on the Greek islands and for the continent’s moral standing. It has also driven a consistent, EU-sponsored dismantlement of legal standards at Greek and EU level that has led to a capture of fundamental safeguards enshrined in the rule of law by the short-term, narrowly conceived political aim of preventing people from reaching the EU. The steady destruction of those safeguards reflects a critical contribution of EU institutions and national governments to “rule of law backsliding” in the continent.

This Legal Note by Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) and Stiftung PRO ASYL recalls and analyses the full extent of the damaging rule of law repercussions of the EU-Turkey deal from 2016 to present, through successive restrictive legislative reforms in Greece, regular use of the islands for experimentation in asylum procedures, and evasion of legal scrutiny of the deal through its construction as a “Statement”.


[1]        European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), ‘EU-Turkey deal: trading in people and outsourcing the EU’s responsibilities’, 8 March 2016, available at:

[2]        European Council, EU-Turkey Statement, 18 March 2016, available at:

[3]        ECRE, ‘Weekly Editorial: EU-Turkey – Deconstructing the deal behind the statement’, 16 March 2018, available at:

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EU-Turkey “deal”: Five years of Shame

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