EU urges Turkey to prevent refugees from leaving its borders

EU urges for new ways to keep asylum seekers out of bloc by calling on Ankara to step up its efforts towards managing refugees to stay within Turkey’s territories, amid rising tensions within EU members on refugee crisis

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Exhausted refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos in an overcrowded dinghy after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast September 22, 2015.

The European Union is on the hunt for a new approach, that could push neighboring Turkey to place more efforts in keeping the Syrian refugees within its territory and put an end to the endless flooding of asylum seekers into member countries of the bloc.

Securing cooperation with the non-EU member Turkey, seems to be the only solution for the divided bloc to cope with the number of refugees entering its borders everyday.

The European Commission is requesting from its member states to increase and redirect EU financial assistance to support refugee housing, education and health services inside Turkey.

In addition, Turkey will be expected to enhance the conditions of the refugees, take more of the returned refugees back, put an end to the smugglers and increase efforts to stop Syrians from reaching Greece.

"Today there is the tendency to wave everybody through," a senior EU source said. "Turkey has to deliver."

However, according to Ankara, Europe has only woken up to the intensity of the crisis this year, while Turkey has been on the frontline for more than four years.

Refugees frantically run off an overcrowded dinghy moments after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast September 22, 2015.

Adding that Ankara has already spent $7.6 billion on food, shelter and medical care, and has only received $417 million in aid from the international community.

During an emergency summit on Wednesday, Brussels will request an increased assistance to Turkey from the EU budget reaching 1 billion euros between now and the end of 2016, two-thirds of it diverted from existing pre-accession funds, EU source reported.

In addition, Belgium will request from member states to match that amount of money using their own national resources, accumulating to the total amount in aid of 2 billion euros.

However, uncertainty sets on whether Turkey, home to the world’s largest refugee population of more than 2 million, will be able to stop the refugees seeking a better life, since only fewer than 300,000 are living in government-hosted camps, while the rest are residing largely on their own savings within the Turkish population.

"They are now leaving in a very disorderly way especially because the Turkish authorities are turning a blind eye to traffickers on the coast," said Marc Pierini, part of the Carnegie Europe think-tank and a former EU ambassador to Ankara.

Pierini also added that the best solution for all countries would be to have a system for processing EU asylum requests inside Turkey, however, EU officials question whether Ankara would allow for the establishment of such centres on its soil.

Refugee smuggling along the Aegean coast has become a billion-euro business with many smugglers having their own Facebook pages with up-to-date information on the state of the borders and weather conditions, Pierini said.

A Turkish foreign ministry official replied to the recent comments of the EU directed at Ankara by saying "it is not fair to expect Turkey to face the migratory flows alone."

"No country is capable of tackling alone the illegal migratory flows," he added.

Refugees arrive on a beach covered with life vests and deflated dinghies on the Greek island of Lesbos in an overcrowded dinghy after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast September 22, 2015.

Turkey is frustrated at the fact that it is being kept out of the EU, about a lack of consultation regarding the refugee crisis and is angered by the increasing anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish rhetoric in Europe.

"This (EU support) package has not been prepared yet, this is only their idea, their statement indeed. We have not been involved in any way in this," a Turkish official stated.

If the financial assistance was just going to be a repackaging of pre-assistance funds "in a way this is going to be like transferring our own money to somewhere else", the official said.

TRTWorld and agencies