Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

EU to send smuggled Syrians back to Turkey

The EU will start returning all irregular migrants back to Turkey from the Greek islands, including smuggled Syrian nationals, under a plan hammered out with Turkey's prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a summit in Brussels.

"The prime minister [Davutoglu] confirmed to accept the rapid return of all migrants coming from Turkey to Greece that are not in need of international protection," EU Council president Donald Tusk told reporters in the early hours of Tuesday (8 March).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • German leader Merkel was architect of new EU-Turkey plan (Photo: Consillium)

Syrian refugees smuggled into Greece will be sent back to Turkey where they will have to apply for asylum.

For every one Syrian sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands, one Syrian from Turkey will be resettled to an EU state on a "one-to-one basis".

Details on how to implement the plans will be discussed at the next EU summit in Brussels on 17-18 March.

But two EU sources told this website it will be linked to a previous EU agreement to resettle 22,000 people to EU states.

Should all 22,000 be resettled, then another 54,000 could be added, they said.

Game changer

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who inspired the plan said that with it, "irregular migration will be turned into regular migration".

"The establishment of legal channels to Europe from Turkey and Greece and immediate humanitarian assistance will assist in managing the refugee crisis by respecting human rights and dignity of refugees," Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said.

In the meantime, EU leaders also decided to end the "wave-through approach" of sending migrants to neighbouring countries.

"The irregular flow of migrants along the Western Balkan route have now come to an end," Tusk said.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, for his part, said the one-to-one principle agreed with Turkey was "a real game changer".

He noted the EU's asylum procedures law allows EU states to return people to a so-called "safe third country of origin".

But Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, Gauri van Gulik, described designating Turkey as a "safe third country" as absurd.

“Many refugees still live in terrible conditions, some have been deported back to Syria and security forces have even shot at Syrians trying to cross the border,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Syrians caught trying to cross using smugglers will be knocked to the bottom of a list for those wanting to be resettled to the EU from Turkey.

Turkey will also have to take back all irregular migrants apprehended in their waters.

"We made a bold decision by accepting all irregular, illegal migrants going from Turkey, irrespective of their origins," said Davutoglu.

But the deal is linked to conditions.

All visiting Turkish nationals will be granted free travel access to the EU's passport-free Schengen area by the end of June.

In addition, Ankara demanded to accelerate its membership talks, with the EU agreeing to open up five new chapters.

Free speech

The deal also includes the EU pumping another €3 billion, on top of a previous €3 billion, into humanitarian aid efforts for the some 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Davutoglu insisted all the money will go to Syrian refugees, noting that "not even a single euro will be spent on Turkish citizens."

The plan is to start financing relief efforts in the camps "in the coming days".

He also blamed, in part, Russian airstrikes in Syria for enflaming the refugee exodus to Turkey and Europe.

Davutoglu had suggested setting up safe zones in Syria but the idea was broadly dismissed by EU leaders.

Instead, discussions on how to support the unraveling Syrian ceasefire were held in a separate meeting in the margins of the summit between Davutoglu, Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel, UK prime minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande among others.

Davutoglu also dismissed notions his government's decision to close down Zaman, a leading newspaper in Istanbul, was politically motivated.

A court ordered last Friday the takover of the paper, which had taken a critical stand against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Freedom of speech is our basic value, not only of the European Union, but of Turkey," said Davutoglu.

’Over there’

Commenting on the summit outcome, British PM David Cameron said the deal, “if implemented, break the smugglers’ business model and end the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe.”

The Dutch and Italian leaders mentioned the importance to them of EU values, including on free press.

The Polish PM Beata Szydlo said: “The refugee problem should be solved outside the borders of the European Union … today I think, we came closer and took a big step to solving the problem over there, on Turkish territory.”

EU-Turkey plan: no refugees on Greek islands

According to a new deal discussed Monday, Turkey would take all migrants who crossed illegally into Greece, while the EU would take Syrians directly from Turkey among other new concessions.

UN 'deeply concerned' by EU-Turkey plan

The UN has spoken out against blanket returns to Turkey after EU leaders earlier Tuesday agreed to a provisional plan to start clearing Greek islands of irregular migrants.

Opinion

EU-Turkey refugee deal doesn't add up

The EU-Turkey "one-for-one" resettlement deal doesn't make sense and won't work. But at least it puts the principle of resettlement in the fore of EU policy.

Greece and Turkey intensify joint work on migrants

Greece and Turkey sign agreements to be able to send back migrants to Turkish soil, as Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia introduce tight restrictions, essentially shutting down the route for refugees.

Interview

Albania won't become EU 'gateway,' Italian admiral says

The Western Balkan country "has very attentive border control", Italy’s former defence chief has said, adding that a deal with Russia on Syria is the best way to restore “stability”.

Opinion

Calling time on European-Turkish strategic relations

With an Erdogan-Putin summit on Tuesday, joined by Iran on Wednesday, it is time for Europe to face facts - Turkey's ties with the West are no longer strategic. When Europe goes hither, Turkey deliberately goes thither.

EU mulls coercion to get refugee kids' fingerprints

EU policy and law makers are ironing out final details of a legislative reform on collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees, known as Eurodac. The latest plan includes possibly using coercion against minors, which one MEP calls "violence".

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan