Friday

24th Feb 2017

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).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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”.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  2. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  4. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  5. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  6. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"
  7. CISPECloud Computing Leaders Establish Data Protection Standards to Protect Customer Data
  8. Malta EU 2017Landmark Deal Reached With European Parliament on Portability of Online Content
  9. Belgrade Security ForumBSF 2017: Building a Common Future in the Age of Uncertainty
  10. CESIEU Not to Revise the Working Time Directive
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAzerbaijan: 76 NGOs Urge the EU to Use President's Visit to Insist on Human Rights Reforms
  12. UNICEFDeadliest Winter for Migrant Children Crossing the Central Mediterranean