Turkey calls on EU to honor its part of key 2016 migrant deal
Bülent Sarıoğlu - ANKARA
“According to the migrant deal, if irregular migration in the Aegean Sea declines, EU member countries should receive Syrian refugees as part of the voluntary admission scheme. This scheme, however, has not yet been implemented,” Turkish EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said on March 1, responding to a question by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Onursal Adıgüzel.
Ankara has conveyed its demand to the EU that the scheme should start to be implemented immediately, Çelik added.
“The number of undocumented migrants trying to cross the Aegean Sea to reach Europe declined to an average of 43 each day in January 2018 from as high as 7,000 in October 2015,” Çelik said, citing data from the United Nations.
The number of casualties, including deaths and people unaccounted for in the Aegean Sea, dropped to 45 per year from 799, Çelik added.
“Due to cooperation between Turkey and the EU, irregular migration in the Aegean Sea has declined significantly,” the minister added.
Çelik also informed that under the one-to-one mechanism of the deal, Greece sent a total of 1,537 irregular migrants, 260 of them Syrians, while Turkey has sent a total of 12,069 Syrians to EU member states.
Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
In March 2016, Turkey and the EU signed the key deal aiming to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by enacting stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the living conditions of the three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The migrant deal also promised Turkey aid and accelerated EU membership talks in return for its help in reducing the flow of migrants crossing to Europe.
The migrant deal also included the lifting of short-term visa requirements on Turks. But its implementation has been waylaid by disagreement over Turkey’s anti-terror laws, which Europe says are too broad and need to be narrowed to meet European standards.
Çelik last month lashed out at the European Union, saying that the bloc was not honoring all parts of the deal in return for 3 billion euros in financial aid to Turkey and other support.
“Technically there’s no reason for Turkey to maintain this deal,” Çelik said.