Wed, Mar 09, 2016 - Page 1 News List

EU-Turkey migrant agreement ‘deeply concerns’ UNHCR

‘BREAKTHROUGH’:The deal involves a one-for-one deal and visa-free travel for Turks, as well as 3 billion euros, but does not provide safeguards


The head of the UN refugee agency yesterday said he was “deeply concerned” by a proposed deal between the EU and Ankara to curb the migrant crisis that would involve people being sent back to Turkey.

“As a first reaction, I’m deeply concerned about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi told the European Parliament.

EU leaders on Monday hailed a “breakthrough” in talks with Turkey on a deal to curb the migrant crisis, but delayed a decision until a summit next week to flesh out the details of Ankara’s new demands.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stunned his 28 EU counterparts in Brussels when he suddenly asked for an extra 3 billion euros (US$3.3 billion) in aid and visa-free travel for Turks to the bloc by June.

In return, he proposed to take back all illegal migrants landing on the overstretched Greek islands, and suggested a one-for-one deal under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece.

After EU leaders “warmly welcomed” Turkey’s proposals, EU President Donald Tusk said he would now work on the legal details to reach a final deal at a European summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday next week.

“We, all of us, are aware that in fact we have a breakthrough now,” he told a post-summit press conference.

Tusk, who toured Turkey, Greece and the Balkans in the run-up to the summit, said it was a major step in ending the continent’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who has been the strongest proponent of a deal with Turkey, partly to offset the impact of her own open-door asylum policy — gave cautious backing to the deal.

“It is a breakthrough if it becomes reality,” she told reporters.

Muslim-majority Turkey is the main launching point for the more than 1 million migrants who have made the dangerous crossing over the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands since the start of last year. It hosts 2.7 million refugees from the five-year civil war in neighboring Syria, more than any other country.

Ankara has nevertheless proved a difficult partner, failing to honor an earlier 3 billion euro deal with the EU in November last year and continually pushing Turkey’s long-stalled EU membership bid.

However, Davutoglu surprised EU leaders on Monday by offering to take all irregular migrants from Greece, a step that would relieve the pressure on debt-hit Athens and the whole of the EU.

He said the one-for-one Syrian refugee swap deal was “game-changing” and denied that Turkey was “demanding” money, urging the world to share the burden of hosting Syrian refugees.

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