EU Minister: Turkey won’t take back migrants already on Greek islands

EU Minister: Turkey won’t take back migrants already on Greek islands

EU Minister: Turkey won’t take back migrants already on Greek islands

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Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır has stressed the readmission deal with the union will not apply to refugees who have already made their way to Greece’s islands. 

Turkey will only begin to readmit refugees from Greece once those who are already in EU territory are resettled among European countries, Bozkır told state-run Anadolu Agency on March 10.

“There is an odd perception regarding the readmission agreement as if they will send one million people back to Turkey. Something them like this is out of question,” he said. “Whoever is currently on the Greek islands through irregular migration, they are definitely not part of this deal,” he added. “It would be more accurate to say the number of migrants to be returned to Turkey in the event of a readmission agreement with the EU will be in the thousands or tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands or millions.”

Officials from Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management, their counterparts from Greece and authorities from the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, will start discussions over the issue “from scratch,” Bozkır said.

“Then, people who travel through irregular migration will be included in readmission,” he said.

He also stressed that EU countries would not be allowed to “cherry pick” during the resettlement process by preferring engineers or doctors over less qualified applicants, because the U.N. Refugee Agency will be overseeing the process. 

Bozkır said Ankara would meet all its obligations under the deal by May 1 and called on all opposition parties to support this “historic” step. 

“We believe this to be a historic step, a gift to our nation. We will make this happen with or without the opposition’s support,” he added. 

On March 7, Turkey proposed a deal which would see the EU resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece, in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats for Europe.

In return, Turkey wants financial aid, visa-free access to Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone and a speeding up of Ankara’s efforts to join the bloc. EU leaders hope to finalize the deal at a summit on March 17-18.