EU, Turkey agree to stem refugee flow into Europe

Turkish prime minister, European Union council president announce that they have reached agreement to take strong measures in order to prevent flow of refugees into Europe

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, meets with European Council President Donald Tusk in Ankara on March 3, 2016 in this handout photo provided by the Prime Minister's Press Office.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and European Union Council President Donald Tusk have declared that they agree to stem the flow of refugees into Europe with tight controls.

Tusk said on Thursday that no numbers had been agreed upon with Turkey regarding its measures to reduce the flow of refugees to Europe, but that the end goal was to completely eliminate the phenomenon.

"It's not about numbers it's about the ongoing and permanent process ... which means for me, the total reduction and the total elimination of this sad phenomenon," Tusk told a news conference in Ankara with Davutoglu.

Davutoglu said that Turkey abided by a joint action plan with the EU on refugees and would continue to fulfil its obligations.

The flow of Syrian refugees to Europe via Turkey will lessen if the cessation of hostilities in Syria holds, but breaches of the ceasefire by Russian and Syrian forces have left it vulnerable, Davutoglu underlined.

Tusk also said it was up to Turkey to decide how best to reduce the flow of refugees.

Sending refugees back from Europe would break the business model of smugglers arranging their sea crossings, Tusk stressed.

Tusk: "Do not come to Europe"

On a visit to Greece before Turkey on the same day -- on the frontline of Europe's worst dilemma regarding refugees since World War II -- Tusk told economic refugees that it was pointless to apply for asylum in the EU.

"I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe," Tusk said in Athens after talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

"Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing."

Davutoglu additionally pointed out on Thursday's news briefing with Tusk that Turkey and Greece cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of the refugees alone.  

Turkey is a transit point for refugees aiming to reach European countries from Syria and Iraq because of its geography bridging the Middle East and Europe.

Syrian refugees escaping the violence in their country fled Syria following the escalation of the Syrian civil war in 2012.

One of their most preferred destinations was neighbouring Turkey, which hosts the most Syrian refugees in the world according to registration records of the United Nations.

Turkey has spent nearly $10 billion of its own resources on the refugees whose number in the country has been climbing to 2.7 million people.

The EU agreed a 3 billion euros ($3.3 bln) aid deal with Turkey to help it shelter refugees mainly from the Syrian civil war, in return for preventing their travelling on to Europe.

EU leaders want to see results before key talks with Turkey on March 7 and their own refugee summit on March 18-19.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in mid-February that she will keep pressing for implementation of the deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees, indicating that the alternative of closing borders to limit the flow of refugees to Europe would have dire consequences for the 28-member bloc.

During the civil war, nearly 8 million are displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.

TRTWorld and agencies