On February 2016⎯ before the actual EU-Turkey Agreement but in the middle of its negotiation⎯ Austria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia published a joint statement regarding how they would be dealing with the so-called Balkans Route of refugees, economic migrants and asylum seekers. The text establishes a common framework that will follow these points:
“All EU and Frontex agency activities at the external border of the European Union in Southeast Europe, particularly those on the Greek-Turkish and Macedonian-Greek borders shall be supported.
Each party will inform other parties on the route about all measures and restrictions to be introduced, as soon as possible, and, if possible five days prior to their implementation.
For the purpose of standardization of the migrant registration, the unified registration form has been adopted, which will be issued in the Republic of Macedonia as the country of first entry and correspondingly stamped by all police authorities as the countries on the route.
The controlled transfer of migrants shall be carried out in accordance with bilateral agreements and arrangements of the parties, and by taking into account this Statement.
First entry will be authorized only by those persons who fulfill the conditions of entry laid down in the Schengen Borders Code and relevant national legislation (possession of a travel document, visa or residence permit, and other conditions if required). The said conditions shall also apply to persons arriving from safe countries of origin as defined by the parties to this Statement.
On humanitarian grounds, the entry of third country nationals may be authorized to those persons who do not fulfill the conditions referred to in point 5 of this Statement but who are arriving from war-torn areas and are in need of international protection (for example from Syria, Iraq), provided that they can prove their nationality, and are in possession of the registration form issued by Greek authorities.
The parties to this statement have established additional common criteria which are to be verified in the course of the registration in the following manner:
The authenticity of statements and documents;
The circumstances in which the person left the country of origin (for example fleeing the war is a valid reason for admission, while family reunification, studying, improving of living conditions, avoiding recruitment and military obligation and personal disputes are not considered as valid reasons for applying for international protection).
Longer residence in a safe third country could not be considered as valid reason for international protection (for example Afghan national who resided for a longer time in Turkey or Iran).
If a person gives false information (for example, as a reason for escape states the avoidance of war but is not arriving from the country affected by armed conflict) or refuses to cooperate during the registration procedure, he/she will be refused entry.
The agreed common measures referred to in points 6 and 7 do not affect the obligations of a particular state in respect of carrying out of border checks and border surveillance.
When allowing entry and transit, any other restrictions of destination countries will also be taken into account (for example current daily quotes).
The deployment of foreign police officers along the Macedonian-Greek border already yields positive results and conveys a strong message that the countries concerned are resolute in jointly coping with the migration crisis
The Heads of Police Services agreed that they will further provide necessary support to the competent authorities of the Republic of Macedonia in order to prevent the migration crisis.
For this purpose they will provide assistance according to the needs expressed by the Macedonian side in the following tasks:
State border surveillance,
Border checks and increased and harmonized migrant profiling measures,
Registration of migrants on a registration form” (Croatian Ministry of the Interior, 2016).
The EU-Turkey Agreement is basing the asylum request and returns to Turkey o the principle of non-refoulment, which is: “A concept which prohibits States from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion”(Lauterpacht & Bethlehem, 2001, Pg 89). Upon this principle the Convention and Protocols for the Status of Refugees are also based, of which all European countries are parties (United Nations High Comission for Refugees , 2011).
Written by: Gabriela Benazar Acosta