Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2482

Europe’s rulers find billions for clampdown on refugees

This article is over 8 years, 5 months old
Many migrants trapped at Europe’s borders are resisting attempts to keep them out, says Dave Sewell
Issue 2482
An Iraqi man carries his traumatised daughter from a dinghy onto the shore on the Greek island of Lesvos

An Iraqi man carries his traumatised daughter from a dinghy onto the shore on the Greek island of Lesvos (Pic: Guy Smallman)

European Union (EU) governments last Sunday splashed out £2.1 billion on new ways to keep refugees out of Europe. The same governments claim they can’t afford to take in more refugees.

A full summit of the EU with Turkey agreed a deal that would see the Turkish government act as border guards for the West.

Turkish forces are to help patrol the Aegean Sea to stop refugees reaching Greece, and clamp down on Turkey’s border with Syria.

In return the EU promised an “initial” £2.1 billion in aid to the 2.2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

It also “re-energised” the negotiating process on Turkey joining the EU—a project long abandoned in the face of racist opposition from core EU countries.

Now the Turkish government is under increasing scrutiny over its human rights abuses, particularly its war against the Kurdish minority.

But any embarrassment over the state’s violence took second place for EU leaders. As summit chair and former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk explained, “Our main goal is to stem the flow of migrants”.

Part of the trade off was for EU countries to take in more refugees directly from Turkey.


But so many refused that German chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to convene an emergency mini-summit with just seven other EU countries to get any agreement.

French prime minister Manuel Valls argued last week, “We cannot accommodate any more refugees in Europe.”

And even Sweden—one of Merkel’s coalition—has decided to roll back its asylum procedures to “EU minimum” levels.

As of April most refugees will no longer be granted asylum. Refugees’ right to bring their families will be severely cut back.

Cops are to carry out identity checks on all modes of transport.

Deputy prime minister Asa Romson, of junior coalition party the Greens, broke into tears as she announced the “terrible decision”.

But she said leaving the government would be worse.

Much of the debate around the deal concerned the future of the Schengen space of open internal borders. But Britain—not a member of Schengen—was the first to pledge £260 million towards the Turkish deal.

Meanwhile clashes continue at the Greek-Macedonia border, where around 1,000 migrants are stuck trying to travel north into Europe.

One group stormed the border last week, tearing down part of a barbed wire barrier.

In another incident around 250 threw stones at police after a Moroccan man was reportedly electrocuted on top of a train. Cops fired stun grenades and rubber bullets.

The refugees have blocked rail lines in protest for almost two weeks. Even the United Nations has condemned the Macedonian government’s new restrictions.

Its response has been to build a new, bigger fence. And governments across Europe are acting in the same spirit.

Stand Up to Racism has called a weekend of action in support of refugees on 5 and 6 December. Go to

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