Two years ago, the European Union initiated an agreement with Turkey in order to limit the influx of refugees towards Europe. The purpose was to halt human trafficking by closing the largest refugee route into Europe. The implications were that all migrants and refugees who arrived in Greece were to be repatriated to Turkey, on the condition that the European Union accepted quota refugees from camps in Turkey. The controversial agreement has not worked as intended, primarily because Greece is unwilling to breach human rights obligations. Only 2180 refugees and migrants have been repatriated to Turkey.
The agreement has also sparked criticism from the United Nations and other humanitarian organisations, who believe that it causes widespread human suffering. The agreement should not set a precedent for similar deals in the future, and it has been criticized for breaching international conventions while undermining the procedural and fundamental human right to seek and enjoy asylum.
The refugee arrivals decreased in 2017 compared to the previous years, but the agreement has still failed to prevent people from embarking on the journey from Turkey to Greece. Boats are arriving almost daily, and the agreement forces people to travel at nighttime in order to hide in the darkness. 730 new boats arrived in Greece in 2017, carrying a total of 29 229 individuals.
In 2017, 699 boats were also stopped by the Turkish coast guard, carrying 29 651 individuals. The vast majority are people from Syria (more than 40%), followed by Iraqis and Afghans. More than half of these are women and children. According to the UNHCR, 3000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in 2017, many of which are children.