EU ‘late to support Turkey on migrants issue’

EU ‘late to support Turkey on migrants issue’

EU ‘late to support Turkey on migrants issue’

A Syrian refugee girl feeds her sister with a baby bottle near her prefabricated house at a tent city in the Harran District of Şanlıurfa, Turkey on September 24, 2015. AA Photo

The European Union’s offer of funds to Turkey as part of a plan to deal with the refugee crisis should have been made a long time ago, European Parliament Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri has told Anadolu Agency.

“Turkey should have been given support much earlier when it comes to financially coping with providing for these 2.5 million refugees,” Piri said. “[It] is not enough.”

Faced with the worst migrant crisis since World War II, the EU is in the process of negotiating with Turkey on a refugee action plan, under which the 28-nation bloc has offered Turkey funds to reduce the flow of asylum seekers coming into Europe in exchange for easier visa travel rules for Turkish citizens seeking to visit EU countries.

Under the action plan, which was presented by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels on Oct. 5, the EU offered 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) in humanitarian assistance for refugees hosted in Turkey.

The Turkish government, according to official figures, has so far spent $7.6 billion on caring for the 2.5 million refugees it hosts inside the country.

“It’s very much in the interest of the EU to find good agreements on how to deal with this refugee crisis,” Piri said.

She said the EU and Turkey must discuss ways to deal with the resettlement of refugees, which she called “a sensitive topic in Europe” because of disagreements among member states on how to distribute refugees across the bloc.

“The solution cannot just be [that] we pay Turkey in order to keep the refugees in Turkey … that is of course not the solution, and it wouldn’t be fair to Turkey either,” she said.

“We already have problems among the 28 [member states] about how to divide the refugees in solidarity with each other; that is already difficult, let alone to make an agreement on how we can provide safe and legal routes for refugees who want to come [to Europe] through Turkey,” Piri said.

The EU border agency Frontex said Nov. 3 that 710,000 asylum seekers had entered the EU within the first nine months of the year, with many traveling through Turkey.

“If we [EU] really want to help refugees to stay close to their homes but also help Turkey and Turkish society which is under much more pressure because of a large number of Syrians in Turkey … it means we need to live up to what we say if we want to have better facilities for refugees in the region,” Piri said.

“It simply means Europe will also have to pay for it,” she said. 

The EU wants leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies to also help tackle a growing migration crisis when they meet in Turkey this month to discuss tax cooperation, trade and climate change. 

The chairman of EU leaders, Donald Tusk, and Juncker will push at a Nov. 15-16 meeting of the G-20 in Turkey for a global response to the challenge faced by Europe from the influx. 

“Meeting in Turkey in the midst of a refugee crisis due to conflicts in Syria and elsewhere, the G-20 must rise to the challenge and lead a coordinated and innovative response to the crisis that recognizes its global nature and economic consequences and promotes greater international solidarity in protecting refugees,” Tusk and Juncker wrote in a letter to other EU leaders. 

Tusk urged Turkey on Nov. 3 to show its readiness to work with Brussels on issues such as the migrant crisis.

Erdoğan, however, has criticized some European countries for their stance on the refugee issue.
“As some European countries are trying to sink the boats, we have collected 65 victims from the sea since the start of the year and saved their lives,” Erdoğan said while addressing village and neighborhood heads (muhtars) in Ankara on Nov. 4. 

Warning that the influx of migrants has probably not yet “reached its peak,” Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri called for European states to detain unsuccessful asylum seekers so they can be “rapidly” sent back to their countries of origin.

“EU states must prepare for the fact that we still have a very difficult situation ahead of us in the coming months,” added Leggeri.