Merkel says things on refugee issue moving in right direction

German chancellor says things are moving in right direction on refugee issue

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

A refugee reacts as he arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos on Oct. 28, 2015.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday that matters concerning the refugee issue were moving in the right direction in Europe's efforts to handle its refugee crisis following European Union leaders' agreement on a draft with Turkey.

The purpose of the deal is to stem the flow of refugees to Europe.

Things could be developing faster "but overall all things are moving in the right direction," Merkel told German radio station SWR.

She added that the EU should consider quotas for refugees from Iraq in addition to those from Syria.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian regime and opposition to show goodwill at peace talks hoped to start in Geneva in the next days.

"I said with Chancellor Merkel that the Syrian government and the opposition must engage in full faith in the peace negotiations which will resume tomorrow," Ban stated during a joint news conference with Angela Merkel.

German chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and UN General secretary Ban Ki Moon give a joint press conference after meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, on March 8, 2016. (AFP)

Commenting on the European refugee crisis, Ban said he was concerned that some European countries were carrying out measures to limit the number of refugees.

"They shun their humanitarian responsibilities," Ban said.

Just over a million people fled war in the Middle East and travelled to the EU in 2015, most taking a dangerous sea voyage from Turkey to Greece and heading north through the Balkans to Germany.

Among the actions listed, Turkey proposed to take back refugees from the Greek islands, including Syrian refugees, as well as those who intercepted its territorial waters.  

The statement said that the EU would offer a further 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) until the end of 2018 to help Turkey shelter Syrians, doubling the previous amount from an earlier offer.

The EU also proposed that it would ease visa requirements for Turkish citizens wishing to visit Europe’s Schengen-area by the end of June, earlier than it had been planned, the EU leaders agreed to the earlier target date for the visa-free travel, provided Turkey introduced harder-to-fake biometric passports.

"With this game-changing position in fact our objective is to discourage illegal [undocumented] migration, to prevent human smugglers, to help people who want to come to Europe through encouraging legal migration in a disciplined and regular manner," he told a news conference after the summit.

EU leaders welcomed Turkey's offer to take back all refugees who crossed into Europe from its soil and agreed in principle to most of Turkey's demands.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C) poses with European Union leaders during a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, as the bloc is looking to Ankara to help it curb the influx of refugees flowing into Europe, March 7, 2016. (Reuters)

European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired the summit, said the outcome would show asylum seekers that there was no longer a path into Europe for people seeking a better life.

"The days of irregular migration to Europe are over," he told a joint news conference with Davutoglu.

TRTWorld and agencies