Turkey says it is proposing migrant return deals to 14 countries
ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
Refugees and migrants disembark from a Greek coast guard ship at the port of the northern island of Lesbos in Mytilene after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on February 20, 2016. AFP PhotoTurkey has said it had proposed signing agreements with 14 countries on the return of migrants from EU member states.
Ankara had “offered to conclude readmission deals with 14 countries”, foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgiç said at a weekly news conference without naming the countries.
“The signing of such a deal can be considered according to the decision made by those countries after the negotiations,” he added.
Turkey, the main launch pad for many migrants who make the sea crossing to Greece in search of a better life in Europe, is under pressure to accept them back under a 2002 bilateral deal with Athens.
A Greek government source said on March 2 said Athens was due to send 308 migrants - mainly Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians - back to Turkey under the agreement.
The source in the citizens’ protection ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said half of the group had already been sent back and the rest would travel by the end of Wednesday.
Several dozen migrants from North African countries were also returned to Turkey at the beginning of January, the source said.
Greece, grappling with a massive migrant influx, has urged Turkey in recent months to implement the readmission agreement.
A Turkish government official told AFP on March 2 that over the past 14 years, Turkey had approved 20,000 cases under the 2002 agreement.
“But the Greek government only sent 4,000 people,” said the official who declined to be named.