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We Asked Syrians What They Think of the EU's New Plan for Refugees

On Monday, boats full of refugees were sent back to Turkey from Greece.

by Norma Costello
Apr 5 2016, 5:30pm

A refugee child is comforted by a volunteer on Lesbos. Photo by Oscar Webb

On Monday, the first boats full of Syrian refugees left Greece for Turkey as part of a controversial "one in one out" deal that makes the EU sound like some sort of exclusive nightclub. Under the deal, refugees on Greek islands will be sent to Turkey, and in return, the EU will accept those who have made legitimate asylum claims in Turkey.

At first glance, the deal is an attempt to curtail smuggling and provide vital humanitarian aid for Syrians fleeing a war that has been raging for five years. EU boss Donald Tusk has said that "the days of irregular migration to Europe are over." However, human rights groups have been critical, saying the $6.8 billion in aid requested by Turkey as part of the deal could end up being used to beef up borders and expand detention centers, rather than help anyone. As millions of Syrian refugees wait in their temporary homes in Europe and the Middle East to see what the outcome will be, for many, it's the beginning of a new chapter in their already chaotic lives.

In the days after the deal was struck, I asked Syrians living in various places what they made of it.

NOUR, 27, CURRENTLY IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Do you think it's important to hear our voices? We are just money on the table in this deal. We're currency for governments. They are completely objectifying us, and they don't really care about Syrians. Is it logical to take Syrians from Greece and move them back to Turkey, then to take Syrians from Turkey and move them to Europe?

They are generating lines in embassies, and people are waiting for a space to open up. It's very strange. A huge pressure has been built up, and we cannot read the future, but I predict nothing good will come of this. People who have left their homes as refugees have nothing to lose. What I'm afraid of is that people will take more risks. Turkey isn't the only door out of Syria, but the other ways are more dangerous, like crossing the Mediterranean, for example. Will more people have to die? If that happens, it will definitely damage the reputation of the EU.

AMER, 28, CURRENTLY IN BERLIN, GERMANY

The EU deal, in my opinion, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a way to protect people from dying in the nightmare that is the Aegean Sea, and it stops smugglers from putting people in harm's way. On the other hand, I don't trust Turkey. They are working for their own interests and not for humanitarian principles. Who will make sure that the money from the EU will really go to help poor people? And who is thinking about the people stranded on the border who sleep out in the cold? We need to try to help them without a load of political bargaining.

I can't say it's bad, but I'm not going to say it's good. Refugees at the border need safeguards to help them, and they need them fast. When you're in that situation, you're not thinking about politics. I lost everything, my home, my friends, and now we need to start a new life. People in Europe need to understand we're not thinking about money or politics or bargaining from selfish governments. We just need ways to get away from the war. They're making it into a game.

ADEL, 24, CURRENTLY IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

We are all worried now. Especially about the situation here in Turkey—it's bad for Syrians like me who live here. We wonder what is going to happen to us. I heard they canceled the visa for Syrians who want to come to Turkey. Now the EU is closing its borders in the faces of Syrians, and Arab countries are also blocking the way for us. The situation is just getting worse and worse. Young guys like me can't go back to Syria—it's just not safe. There are so many armies there. I guess when I think about this agreement, I realize they're just selling Syrians. I heard they sent one hundred buses back to Syria. If this is true, it is just so wrong. What about people like me here in Turkey? Will they send us back? Even though it's hard to have a good future here, there's peace. But what about the people in Syria? They lost everything. People will still try to get to Greece, some of them will die doing it.

MOHAMMED, 25, CURRENTLY IN DAMASCUS, SYRIA

This deal is awful. They are trading us like animals. One goes back, to where? One comes in, from where? What do they think we can do? It's OK in Damascus now, but that can change. My dad wanted me to leave. I stayed. Now I can't leave. I'm tired of it all. I'm tired of the war, tired of being alone when my friends left. I'm just missing my friends; they are all in Europe now. I don't care about Turkey or Europe or politics—it's all the same. No one cares about us. We're just dying. We thought Europe was good, but now it's changing.

WADDAH, 26, CURRENTLY IN MUNICH, GERMANY

I think this is a good deal between the EU and Turkey. If they are telling the truth and not lying, it could be good for Syrians. I will be able to see my family in the north of Syria and in Turkey. Life in Turkey is similar to Damascus. I am in Germany now, and life here is very lonely. I think Syrians who are living in Turkey should stay there—it is better than life here. Everything here is so different, and my family is very far away. I don't know if I trust Turkey or Europe, but maybe it's better to live near our culture. I find integration hard here in Europe.