Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Germany, Turkey want Nato help to police coast

Germany and Turkey are seeking Nato help to police the Turkish coast along the Aegen Sea to clamp down on people smugglers.

The appeal comes amidst a developing humanitarian crisis on the Turkish-Syrian border, as tens of thousands fled the Syrian city of Aleppo where Russian air strikes helped troops loyal to president Bashar al-Assad to gain ground.

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German chancellor Angela Merkel visited Turkey on Monday (8 February) in the hope of stepping up joint efforts to stem the migration flows, with most asylum seekers making their way into Europe ending up in Germany, putting unprecedented political pressure on Merkel’s government to stop the influx.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said during a news conference with Merkel that their two countries would make “joint efforts” for greater Nato involvement in the refugee issue.

He said they would seek the use of Nato's observation capabilities at the border with Syria and in the Aegean Sea.

Twenty-four migrants, including 11 children, drowned in the Aegean on Monday as they tried to cross from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, AFP reported.

As the leaders discussed how to stop the flow, another wave of people got stranded at the Turkish-Syrian border, fleeing the ancient city of Aleppo amid Russian bombings in the latest push for troops loyal to Assad to gain territory from rebels.

Davutoglu said Aleppo "is de facto under siege. We are on the verge of a new human tragedy.”

The Turkish PM said there are about 30,000 people amassed at the border area.

But on Monday the border remained closed, with no sign that for now Ankara will bow to international pressure and allow more refugees in.

Aid workers at the border region set up tents and tried to provide for the tens of thousands trapped there, according to media reports.

Turkey says it is currently already hosting some 2.7 million refugees, and Davutoglu warned that Turkey cannot be expected to shoulder the refugee burden alone.

Davutoglu added that Turkey and Germany agreed on a joint diplomatic initiative to stop the onslaught against Aleppo.

Merkel criticised Russia for bombings in Syria.

She said she is “not just appalled but horrified" by the suffering caused by Russian bombing around Aleppo.

She said Germany will push at the United Nations for everyone to keep to a UN resolution passed in December calling on all sides to halt without delay attacks on the civilian population.

The chancellor also met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

‘Kill the refugees?’

Merkel looks increasingly isolated at home and in Europe, after the Assad regime intensified fighting in Syria backed by Russian air strikes.

Her approval ratings slid in February to the lowest since August 2011.

According to an Infratest Dimap poll 81 percent of respondents think her government has lost control of the refugee crisis.

Her very political survival and Europe’s grip on the crisis may now depend on how Turkey, the gateway to Europe, handles the situation.

Merkel travelled to Turkey for the second time in four months.

The EU has already pledged €3 billion to help Turkey with the refugees stranded in the country.

The sum has not been paid to Turkey yet, as the European Commission is identifying possible projects to fund which help refugees.

Davutoglu said Monday that Turkey will inform Brussels next week on which projects would be put forward.

But the small-scale of Europe’s influence over Turkey with regards to the migration crisis was highlighted by documents leaked on Monday by Greek Euro2day, a financial news website.

But the documents allegedly detail negotiations between Erdogan and EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk last October.

According to the documents, Turkey wanted to see €6 billion coming from the EU over two years.

When it was made clear the EU can only commit to €3 billon, Erdogan said Turkey doesn’t need Europe’s money anyway. “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses,” he said, according to the papers.

After the European leaders stressed the importance of a deal, the Turkish leader asked rhetorically: “So how will you deal with the refugees, if you don’t get a deal? Kill the refugees?”.

According to the leaked documents, Juncker confirmed that publishing the critical progress report on Turkey’s EU membership bid was delayed until after the Turkish elections.

Erdogan fired back saying the delay didn’t help his party’s win at the polls, and the report was an “insult”. Turkish officials also called the EU’s €3bn contribution an insult.

A commission spokeswoman told this website they do not comment on alleged leaks.

EU finalises €3bn fund for Turkey refugees

Projects can start in early 2016 after Italy dropped objections. Germany to contribute the most, after the majority of the 1 million EU-bound migrants went there last year.

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.

Germany tightens asylum rules

The governing coalition parties agreed to restrict family reunification and ease deportation of non-refugees.

Greece struggles to hit EU migrant hotspot deadline

Greece has until 15 February to complete five screening centres for migrants - known as hotspots - as Macedonia erects a new border fence to stem the migrant flow through the Balkans.

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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