Monday

22nd Jan 2018

Merkel to plead with Turkey on migrants

  • Merkel and Davutoglu during an meeting in Berlin in January. (Photo: Turkish PM office)

German chancellor Angela Merkel has begun a visit to Turkey to urge Ankara to limit the number of migrants travelling to the EU, 10 days before an EU leaders' summit in Brussels.

Meanwhile, humanitarian groups are urging Turkey to open its southern border to allow in tens of thousands Syrians who have fled Russian bombs in Aleppo.

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European politicians are pressurising Turkey following the agreement of an action plan that included a €3 billion package to Turkey to improve the situation for refugees there (although the sums reportedly haven't been transferred yet).

“This is a last-ditch effort by the [German] chancellor to push Turkey to get serious about the plan,” one senior EU diplomat said according to the Financial Times, adding that “the numbers [of migrants] are still high”.

The European commissioner in charge of enlargement and neighbourhood policy, Johannes Hahn, told Reuters that Turkey “could do more”.

“This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants,” the agency quoted the commissioner, adding that such a decline must be visible by next Thursday (18 February) when EU leaders meet in Brussels.

“We need results before the EU summit to show leaders that this is working,” said Hahn, noting concern there is not enough time.

'Nowhere else to go'

Merkel said in her weekly podcast over the weekend: “We need to protect our external borders because we want to keep Schengen.”

She is meeting Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday (8 February) to discuss the action plan.

While they meet, several tens of thousands of Syrians are reportedly waiting on the Syrian side of the border, hoping to be allowed to cross.

They fled a Russian-led bombing campaign in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been held by anti-government forces for several years. The Aleppo battle is seen by some as a possible turning point in the war, in favour of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Peace talks in Geneva meanwhile were suspended last week until the end of the month.

Turkey's deputy PM was quoted by CNN Turk discussing the dilemma his government faces.

“Turkey has reached the limit of its capacity to absorb the refugees,” he said.

“But in the end, these people have nowhere else to go. Either they will die beneath the bombings (...) or we will open our borders.

"We are not in a position to tell them not to come. If we do, we would be abandoning them to their deaths."

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.

Dutch want migrant swap deal with Turkey

Netherlands is pushing for a deal that would see the EU accept up to 250,000 refugees a year from Turkey, and Turkey taking back all migrants who arrive illegally in Greece.

Germany, Turkey want Nato help to police coast

Germany and Turkey want to stop people-smugglers in the Aegean Sea, as tens of thousands of new Syria refugees mass on Turkey's borders amid Assad's siege of Aleppo.

Opinion

'The Europe we wished for'

In the migration crisis, the EU behaves as if it were at the mercy of the Turkish president and forgets human rights, whereas it should lead a new international migration governance.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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