EU-Turkey deal did not cause decline in number of refugees

The EU-Turkey Agreement of March 18 2016 is generally believed to be the explanation of the decline in the number of migrants and asylum seekers crossing from Turkey to Greece. In an extensive analysis of statistical data, Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, found that the EU-Turkey Agreement did not have a demonstrable effect on the number of migrants and asylum seekers. The decline is rather part of an overall expected downward trend. This is contrary to what the European Commission claims in yesterday’s third progress report on the EU-Turkey Agreement.

09/29/2016 | 1:40 PM

No relation between EU-Turkey Agreement and decline in migrants
Investigating the effects of the EU-Turkey Agreement, Spijkerboer found no identifiable relation between the Agreement and the number of migrants crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece. “The data show a steady downward trend in arrivals on the Greek islands since October 2015. This trend precedes the EU-Turkey Agreement.” The statistical analysis shows that the Agreement has no identifiable relation to the decline.Therefore, Spijkerboer asks: “Shouldn’t the EU think twice before concluding these policies?”

‘Wir schaffen das’ may lead to more applications for Germany
In addition, Spijkerboer investigated the empirical claim that the German ‘decision to suspend Dublin and open the borders’, epitomized by Angela Merkel’s  ‘Wir schaffen das’ led to the increase in the number of refugees in Europe in the summer and fall of 2015. In his analysis, he focused on Syrians, being the largest group of refugees coming to Europe. The data show that the number of Syrian asylum applications had already been increasing sharply for a year. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the decision to suspend Dublin had influenced the number of Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in Europe. Furthermore, Spijkerboer states, it is unlikely that the peak was related to ‘Wir schaffen das’. The German government responded to an increase, and did not cause it.

However, it is quite possible that ‘Wir schaffen das’ has contributed to asylum seekers choosing Germany instead of other EU Member States as the country of destination.

The Migration law Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is one of the largest research centres on migration law worldwide.

Please see these blogs by Thomas Spijkerboer for more information: