Evidence-based assessment of migration deals: the case of Turkey

Research findings

The fast-tracking procedures that have been implemented on the Greek islands as exceptional measures to solve the ‘crisis’ have not been fast at all. The long waits have resulted in over crowdedness, negative mental health effects and extreme situations of despair. The project team observed discrimination by using nationality as dividing criteria in the asylum system. Moreover, a strong focus on return hints at a covert mechanism to end the right to asylum on European territory. Turkey is not a ‘safe third country’ whereas the EU Turkey Statement is entirely built around this fact. In the light of Turkey’s disrespect for procedural safeguards and the principle of non-refoulement the research shows that the EU-Turkey Statement runs a risk of preventing refugee’s access to asylum. Collaborations with a country where human rights violations are taking place at a large scale and protection for asylum seekers cannot be guaranteed should not be Europe’s priority and is undermining Europe’s own core values.

Implications for policy and programming

The research has produced pragmatic knowledge on the impact of the EU-Turkey Statement on migrant’s daily lives at the borders of Europe but also further away. It has shown what the unintended consequences are of emergency actions, such as the fast track procedures, and argues for looking into more sustainable longer term solutions with less human right violations involved. The EU-Turkey Statement does not work in practice and fundamental changes are required. A sustainable EU approach to migration management would need to move from shifting responsibilities through returns to third countries, towards fairly sharing protection responsibilities both within the EU and globally.

Research uptake activities

The findings have been communicated during two roundtable discussions with policymakers and practitioners (The Hague and Brussels) and the project brought academics in contact with NGO workers, lawyers and policymakers through an expert meeting organized in Lesbos. The project team received requests by politicians and policymakers after the roundtable meetings to send the policy briefs so they can distribute them within their network. Policymakers have commented on the two policy briefs (one on Greece and one on Turkey) before they were printed and have been able to help to (re)formulate the findings in such a way that they are more likely to be listened to. Highlight: the report, Evidence-based assessment of migration deals the case of the EU-Turkey Statement, has been published through several channels (including: the KPSRL website, Borderline Europe and UU migration deals).


This research project provides a critical assessment of collaborations on mixed migration flows between Europe and migrant sending countries. In the context of increasing asylum and migration flows we observe an important policy move towards partnerships between EU countries and sending countries. The focus of this project is on readmission agreements with Turkey, but with new deals in the making the results of this project will be of wider use and value for European policymakers. At its core, the EU Turkey deals aim to reduce irregular migration, decrease smuggling and human right violations and migrant deaths. In exchange, EU Member States promised to increase resettlement of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, accelerate visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, and boost existing financial support for Turkey’s refugee population. This project will focus on the effects of the deals. How did the deal transform mixed migration flows and people’s reliance on human smugglers therein? What has been the impact of the deal on resettlement from Turkey to Europe? Field research (document analysis and interviews with forced returnees and migrants on the move) will be conducted to come up with evidence based insights on the implementation and the effects of the deal.


Professional publication

Publication meant for a broad audience


Project number

W 08.400.153

Main applicant

Dr. I.C. van Liempt

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geowetenschappen, Departement Sociale Geografie en Planologie

Team members

Dr. J. Alpes, Dr. I.C. van Liempt, Drs. O. Ulusoy, Prof. dr. E.B. Zoomers


01/05/2017 to 31/10/2017