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  • Rory O'Keeffe

The problem with the EU/Turkey Deal is not its 'failure', but its absolute immorality, and i

In an actually quite dangerous article, Greek national newspaper Kathimerini this morning pretends that the EU/Turkey Deal ‘is failing’.

By this it does not mean that it is failing in moral terms, or failing to provide what is best for the desperate men, women and children fleeing war and terror, and attempting to reach safety. Those criticisms would be accurate.

Instead, the Greek daily states that the Deal is ‘failing’ because it is not ‘stemming the flow’ of people entering Europe.

The idea is astonishing, and preposterous.

First, because as the article itself literally states, in 2016, the year in which the deal began, 172,813 people arrived in the EU. By December 13, 28,739 people had arrived since 1 January this year.

That is, more than six times as many people arrived in 2016, than have arrived in all but 18 days of 2017.

Of course, the majority of those people arrived in the first two months and 21 days of 2016 – all but 29,467 of them in fact.

But this means that even if we were to reduce the number of new entrants to Greece in January, February and the first 21 days of March 2016 to zero (and that has literally never happened in the last 150 years), the number of people to have entered Greece in 2016 would still be higher than that to have arrived in the first 11 months and 13 days of this year.

It has been noted here previously, but in fact it took until 25 November for the total number of refugees to have arrived since 1 January 2017 to reach the number who arrived in March 2016 alone.

On the simple grounds of the figures involved, it is astonishing, reckless and indefensible to claim that the Deal ‘is not stemming’ the number of new arrivals in Greece (though whether that should be the major aim of any Greek or EU policy in any case, is far from clear).

Secondly, there are 3.3m Syrian refugees, and more than 1.2m Iraqi and Afghan refugees in Turkey at present – and that counts only those from three states, and only those who have registered as refugees.

Out of that 4,500,000, to 13 December just 28,739 have this year arrived in Greece.

To put it another way, in 2017, the total percentage of the registered refugee population in Turkey to make it to Greece is just 0.64 per cent. Fewer than one in every 156.6 refugees in Turkey have come to Greece this year.

To call that a ‘failure’ is eye-watering.

Finally, we should note that the numbers here are really not very big. You could very comfortably fit three times the number of people who have arrived in Greece this year so far into a reasonable-sized football team’s stadium.

Even if every one of the new arrivals was to remain in Greece (and that might happen), Greece’s population would have increased by just 0.25 per cent. One quarter of one per cent.

For every one new refugee in Greece this year, there are more than 369 people who were already here.

If we wish to extend that to the total number of refugees currently in Greece – widely quoted as 63,000, but as noted here, in fact around 70,000, the figures we are looking at are 0.6 of a percent, or one refugee for every 162.9 Greek nationals.

There are of course enormous problems with the refugee response here in Greece, and with the Deal. But willfully misleading its readers into believing they are somehow being ‘overwhelmed’ or that the EU/Turkey Deal has not made any difference to the number of arrivals in Greece is irresponsible, and wrong in factual as well as moral terms.

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