EU, Turkey strike deal on Syrian migrants, visa

EU, Turkey strike deal on Syrian migrants, visa

EU, Turkey strike deal on Syrian migrants, visa

AFP photo

A deal between the European Union and Turkey to curb the huge flow of asylum seekers to Europe has been agreed upon by the parties, the EU president said on March 18. 

Brussels and Ankara sealed a deal to return migrants arriving across the Aegean to Europe, EU Council President and summit chairman Donald Tusk confirmed.

“Now unanimous agreement between all EU HoSG (Heads of State or Government) and Turkey’s PM on EU-Turkey Statement,” Tusk tweeted after talks in Brussels.

According to the deal, Turkey was set to begin taking back illegal migrants crossing into Greece as of March 20, and the returns will start as of April 4, private broadcaster CNN Türk quoted a Turkish official as saying on condition of anonymity.

The illegal migrants crossing into Greece from March 20 onwards will start to be brought back to Turkey as of April 4, the source said, adding that the relocation of migrants from Turkey into the EU would also take place as of April 4.

Also as part of the deal, The EU will open chapter 33 on budget policy and accelerate preparations for negotiations in other areas, an EU official said, adding that Turkey’s EU accession process could accelerate.

Speaking after the summit, along with Davutoğlu, Tusk said that Turkey would start taking back illegal migrants reaching Greece as of March 20, adding that a very balanced agreement had been reached. 

Tusk said that Chapter 33 of the Turkey’s EU bid would be opened as part of this agreement. 

For his part, Davutoğlu also said that the agreement was “balanced” adding that this day was a historic day, as it showed that the faith of Turkey and the EU was common. 

Davutoğlu said that the 3 billion euros the EU had pledged would start to be spent on Syrian refugees in Turkey in the following weeks. He said that an additional 3 billion euros would also be given to Turkey until the end of 2018 to help improve the living conditions of the Syrian refugees. 

Humanitarian aim sought at deal

He said that their aim in reaching this deal was humanitarian and to avoid the deaths of “women, children, youth.” 

Hours before, Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipila said the 28 EU leaders approved the deal negotiated with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in a bid to end an unprecedented crisis dividing the continent.  

“The Turkey deal was approved,” Sipila wrote on Twitter.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka confirmed that the expulsion of migrants arriving on the Greek islands would begin on March 20.

“Deal with Turkey approved. All illegal migrants who reach Greece from Turkey as of March 20 will be returned,” Sobotka wrote on Twitter.

More than 1.2 million migrants have come to Europe since January 2015 in the continent’s biggest migration crisis since World War II and around 4,000 have drowned while trying to cross the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

But the deal comes at a heavy cost for Europe.

Turkey has demanded an acceleration of its long-stalled bid for EU membership, the doubling of refugee aid to six billion euros and visa-free travel, in return for taking back all new irregular migrants coming to Greece, the main entry point to Europe.

“All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey. This will take place in full accordance with EU and international law, thus excluding any kind of collective expulsion,” read a part of the deal, according to Reuters. 

The deal also stated that “all migrants will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement. It will be a temporary and extraordinary measure which is necessary to end the human suffering and restore public order.”