Sunday

9th Dec 2018

Dutch want migrant swap deal with Turkey

  • Migrants entering Greece illegally would be sent back to Turkey immediately (Photo: Lee Kelleher)

The Netherlands is gathering support among a group of EU countries for a plan to accept “a couple hundred thousand refugees per year” from Turkey, in exchange for sending back all illegal migrants that arrive in Greece.

The plan was revealed on Thursday (28 January) by Dutch social-democrat leader Diederik Samsom in an interview with newspaper De Volkskrant, and has the support of prime minister Mark Rutte.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Samsom: 'It is more a question of principle than of necessity that 10 Syrian families can go to Latvia'

The Netherlands currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.

“I think there is a realistic chance that by this spring a leading group of EU countries will have an agreement with Turkey about a legal migration route for a couple hundred thousand refugees per year, in exchange for [Turkey] accepting back everyone who enters [the EU] via Greece,” Samsom told the paper's Brussels correspondent.

The idea is to distribute "between 150,000 and 250,000" refugees among EU countries who voluntarily take part in the plan.

A first meeting about the plan took place in December, with Rutte, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven, and Dutch EU commissioner Frans Timmermans.

Samsom noted he has been speaking “intensively” with Germany, Austria, and Sweden “because they have social-democrats in the government”.

“In the worst case scenario, only these countries plus a few like France, Spain, and Portugal take part,” he said, adding that France has been “dodging” the issue.

“When I call prime minister Valls [about the plan], he says 'interessant, tres interessant', and hopes I don't ask any further.”

Turkey becoming safer?

Binding quotas do not work, he said, referring to the scheme to redistribute 160,000 migrants from Italy and Greece.

The plan was forced through against the will of some eastern EU members, and fewer than 400 have been relocated so far.

"It is more a question of principle than of necessity that 10 Syrian families can go to Latvia or the Czech Republic. Those 10 families can be hosted in the Netherlands, really," said Samsom.

While under the Samsom plan reluctant member states would not be forced to take up any refugees, they would have to pitch in financially. The plan, which he described as “the permanent [EU] asylum system”, would be funded from the EU budget.

For the plan to work and for illegal migrants to be sent back to Turkey “by return ferry”, Turkey would have to be considered a safe country by United Nations criteria.

“Developments are happening fast,” Samsom said, noting that Turkey was giving Syrian refugees the right to work, and increasing the number of children permitted to receive education.

"We are not far removed from the moment that Turkey receives the status of safe country."

Greece needs 'greater intensity'

Samsom is one of the architects of the current Dutch coalition government, which began work in 2012. It relies on support from a Samsom's centre-left Labour party and Rutte's centre-right Liberals, normally each other's political foes.

Although the two parties have different reasons for wanting to solve the refugee crisis, the issue is “paradoxically bringing the coalition partners closer together”, said Samsom.

Another reason might be that, according to opinion polls, elections earlier than the planned 2017 are in the interests of neither party.

The populist anti-immigration party of MP Geert Wilders has overtaken Rutte's party as the largest in most polls since September, and support for Samsom's party has plummeted.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Merkel's spokesperson Steffen Seibert said Turkey must stop smugglers with "greater intensity and consistency".

Most asylum seekers ineligible, EU commissioner says

EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, citing an unpublished report by the EU border agency Frontex, says most people coming to EU are not from countries which qualify them for asylum.

Greece 'seriously neglected' border controls, says EU

The European Commission has accused Greece of "seriously neglecting its obligations" to manage its frontiers amid broader threats to extend border controls in the Schengen area to two years.

Analysis

EU mantra of 'solidarity' lost on asylum

Two years after EU leaders made big promises on migration, following the Lampedusa tragedy, and their words still mean almost nothing in practice.

EU states push for two-year border controls

EU member states are looking at legal ways to keep border controls in place for up to two years, as the migration influx puts unprecedented pressure on the passport-free travel zone.

Merkel to plead with Turkey on migrants

German leader is in Ankara to urge a limit on migrant numbers, as thousands of Syrians gather on Turkey's southern border after fleeing Russian bombs in Aleppo.

News in Brief

  1. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wins CDU leadership election
  2. Huawei hits back at EU commissioner warning
  3. EU digital commissioner 'worried' on Huawei situation
  4. EU adopts controversial definition of 'antisemitism'
  5. France braces for weekend riots
  6. Italy's 'Salvini decree' renders migrants homeless
  7. Latvia rejects UN migrant pact
  8. EU's new 10,000 border guard force may not be 'feasible'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle
  2. Brexit vote and Merkel's successor top This Week
  3. Brexit, migration, cities - and the UN pact
  4. EU Commission spins half-truth on 'unsafe' refugee boats
  5. COP24 Nordic Pavilion: sharing climate solutions with the world
  6. From Malta to Poland: each EU state to have AI strategy
  7. Hungary and Poland: EU capitals of homophobia
  8. Austerity did not help Italy - maybe spending will?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us