Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Greece and Turkey intensify joint work on migrants

  • Turkish PM Davutoglu (l) and his Greek counterpart Tsipras meeting on the sidelines of the EU-Turkey summit on Monday (Photo: Council of the European Union)

Greece and Turkey have promised to cooperate on a plan to send back migrants from Europe, agreed by EU leaders on Tuesday.

The EU deal, which includes €3 billion for Turkey, visa liberalisation for its citizens by the summer, and the opening of accession chapters, is still to be fully endorsed at another summit next week.

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.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras met his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in Izmir on Tuesday and signed several agreements to pave the way for the EU-Turkey deal to work.

Tsipras told a joint news conference that the EU deal “sends a clear message to migrants coming from third countries, rather than countries at war ... that there is neither the political will nor the ability to cross to Europe”.

“This is the reality we ought to sincerely convey to them in order to stop, to reduce, this unbearable flow for our countries."

So far this year more than 130,000 migrants and refugees have travelled to the Greek islands from the Turkish coast.

As NATO warships started to patrol the Aegean Sea to locate boats carrying migrants, Tsipras also said the two countries would step up efforts to tackle people smugglers.

Davutoglu added: "The aim here is to discourage irregular migration and ... to recognise those Syrians in our camps who the EU will accept – though we will not force anyone to go against their will – on legal routes."

'Death blow' to asylum

In the meantime, Slovenia and Croatia said starting from Wednesday they would refuse to allow many migrants to travel through their countries.

The Slovenian interior ministry said in a statement that only those who wanted to claim asylum in Slovenia or wanted to enter for humanitarian reasons would be allowed entry.

They would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, the ministry said.

“The irregular flows of migrants on the Western Balkan route has now come to an end,” Slovenian prime minister Miro Cerar said.

Only about 460 of the almost 478,000 migrants who have passed through Slovenia since last October asked for international protection in Slovenia, Reuters reported.

Neighbouring Croatia also said it would now allow in only refugees with proper visas.

“The border of Europe will be on the Macedonia-Greek frontier,” interior minister Vlaho Orepic said in a television interview.

The decisions effectively seal off the Balkan route used by hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Serbia's interior ministry responded by saying they would also restrict entry, adding that the country “cannot allow itself to become a collective centre for refugees”.

The increasing restrictions on travel have helped to strand some 36,000 people who were trying to cross from Greece into Macedonia.

The EU said the deal with Turkey was aimed at discouraging migrants and refugees from undertaking perilous journeys, but it was criticised by the UN and other international organisations.

The UN Refugee Agency is concerned that the blanket return of asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey breaches international and EU law.

Casting further down on the deal’s legality, human rights group Amnesty International said the plan “dealt a death blow to the right to seek asylum”.

The EU Commission said the deal was in line with international obligations.

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.

Three people die after EU border clampdown

Germany says situation in Greece is unsustainable as first three people perish trying to get round new EU restrictions on the Western Balkan migratory route.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

News in Brief

  1. EU bank delays gas pipeline decision
  2. Hungary's leftwing parties join Jobbik in anti-Orban protest
  3. Barnier: EU will not accept UK backtracking on Brexit deal
  4. Puigdemont to return to Catalonia if elected
  5. Commission approves EasyJet partial takeover of Air Berlin
  6. EU medical command centre due next year
  7. Auditors: EU 'green' farm payments fail ecology criteria
  8. Austria gas explosion creates Italian energy 'emergency'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Last chance for Poland to return property to its rightful owners
  2. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan
  3. Volkswagen tells EU: we will fail on our recall promise
  4. EU will not start Brexit future talks before March
  5. Bitcoin risky but 'limited phenomenon', says EU
  6. Panama Papers - start of sensible revolution in EU tax affairs?
  7. Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees
  8. New Polish PM brings same old government