Turkey PM says returns under EU migrant deal to begin on April 4

Turkey PM says returns under EU migrant deal to begin on April 4

Turkey PM says returns under EU migrant deal to begin on April 4

Migrants and refugees wait in the line for food distribution in the makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni on April 1, 2016, where thousands of people are stranded by the Balkan border blockade - AFP photo

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu March 31 said a key migrant deal concluded with the European Union to curb the flow of illegal migration would begin to be implemented on April 4 with the return of some migrants from Greece to Turkish territory.

In one of his regular televised addresses to Turks, Davutoğlu confirmed that, under the scheme agreed with the EU, one Syrian refugee would be settled in Europe legally in return for every migrant who arrived on Greek islands and Turkey received back.

“That’s to say, with the one-for-one method, the number of refugees in Turkey will not increase and also nobody will sustain any human loss with the ambition of travelling to Europe via the Aegean Sea,” he was quoted as saying by AFP.

“This practice will begin as of April 4.” 

Davutoğlu was referring to the deaths of around 4,000 migrants who drowned crossing the Aegean from Turkey to the islands of EU member Greece, of them more than 400 died alone since the beginning of 2016.

Turkish and EU leaders agreed mid-March on a deal to curb the influx of migrants that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II.

Turkey agreed with the EU this month to take back all migrants and refugees who cross to Greece illegally in exchange for financial aid, visa-free travel for Turks and “accelerated” EU membership talks.

An EU source told AFP in Athens earlier that 500 people were set to be sent back to Turkey on Monday “barring a last-minute problem.”

It remains unclear how the migrants will be transported from Greece and where in Turkey they will be taken to.

Daily Hürriyet reported March 31 that the readmission of first batch of migrants could be delayed due to the excessive amount of refugees continuing to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece in hope of a better life, and the processes of sending back having not been finalized.