- EU states have struck a deal with Turkey to try and tackle migrant crisis
- Includes prospect of easier access to travel visas for 78 million Turks
- Deal includes possible €3bn in aid and renewed talks over it joining EU
- The aim of the measures is to encourage refugees to stay in the countryTurkey has issued a list of demands to EU member states – including £2.2bn in ‘aid’ – in return for tightening its lax border controls and stemming the flow of migrants.
Turkey is home to some two million refugees, most of them fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.
Nearly 600,000 migrants have reached the EU by sea this year, the majority travelling from Turkey to Greece before heading north.
The greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War has led to splits between member states over how to respond.
Refugees reach the Greek island of Lesbos on a rubber dinghy yesterday – EU member states hope talks with Turkey will help ease the migrant crisis
More than 3,000 migrants have died trying to reach Greece from Turkey – measures have been drawn up to encourage refugees to remain in Turkey to prevent them making the treacherous journey across sea
TURKEY’S LIST OF DEMANDS TO EU
– Possible €3bn (£2.2bn) in aid
– Prospect of easier access to travel visas
– ‘Re-energised’ talks on joining the EU
– Establishment of an international ‘safe zone’ for refugees inside northern Syria
To get a grip on the crisis and halt the movement of migrants, EU states have now struck a deal with Turkey.
The agreement made with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at a summit in Brussels includes a possible €3bn (£2.2bn) in aid, something German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU states were considering. EU officials have so far agreed to 500 million Euros.
It also includes the prospect of easier access to travel visas for 78 million Turks (which is likely to be limited at first to business travellers and students) and ‘re-energised’ talks over Turkey joining the EU.
The aim of the measures is to encourage refugees to stay in the country.
As part of the deal, Turkey has agreed to take back third-country asylum seekers and offer Syrian refugees the legal right to work in the country, dissuading them from making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean.
The Financial Times reported that of the estimated 350,000 asylum seekers who have tried to enter the EU since January, Turkey had only stopped 50,000 at its borders.
It will also work more closely with Greece to tackle the crisis which has seen 3,103 migrants die trying to reach the country by sea.
Angela Merkel, speaking at the EU leaders’ summit, described the current situation as ‘very disorderly’
Speaking as she arrived at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Mrs Merkel said: ‘It’s quite obvious that only a few countries today take the majority of refugees and if these countries now are asked to secure the external borders on top of that, I don’t think it would be what we could call a fair distribution of effort’.
Mrs Merkel, who will visit Turkey on Sunday, added: ‘In the end we are all Europeans, and this refugee question will challenge all of us.’
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said he had ‘cautious optimism’ over the deal.
He said: ‘Our intensified meetings with Turkish leaders… in the last couple of weeks were devoted to one goal: stemming the migratory flows that go via Turkey to the EU. The action plan is a major step in this direction.’
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said talks over the aid would continue with Turkish officials over the coming days.
Some 10 million people have been forced from their homes in Syria, with around 600,000 arriving in Europe
Meanwhile Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country would decide whether to close its border with Croatia today.
Hungarian state TV reported Mr Orban as saying he would prefer the EU to defend its external border in Greece but could seal its Croatian border ‘within an hour if necessary’.
There were also calls for member states to provide more money for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and for development in Africa.