Turkey fulfils half of EU criteria for visa liberalisation

Turkish Foreign Ministry says that country has already realised half of criteria demanded by European Union for visa liberalisation of its citizens outlined in recent EU-Turkey refugee deal

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu poses with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L), European Council President Donald Tusk (2nd R) and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (R) during the recent refugee summit in Brussels, March 18, 2016.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that the country has fulfilled 35 criteria out of a total 72 set by the European Union (EU) for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens according to the recent EU-Turkey refugee deal agreed on Friday. 

Officials from Greece and the EU will visit Turkey to work out the mechanics of the refugee deal, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on Monday.

Under the deal, no refugees will be sent back to Turkey by force, the official said, adding that almost half of the 72 criteria put forward by the EU for Turks to secure visa-free travel to Europe were completed.

Turkey and European Union leaders approved a deal intended on halting further refugee flows into Europe, providing visa liberation for Turkish citizens and adding an accessory funding to the already spent billions Turkey has provided for its refugees.

The long awaited deal aims at blocking the influx of refugees into Europe, mainly through preventing people smugglers from sending refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece.

Turkish officials arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos on Monday to help realize the deal, which requires new arrivals from March 20 to be held until their asylum applications are processed and for those deemed ineligible to be sent back to Turkey from April 4 onwards.

For each Syrian refugee who eludes efforts to stop refugee flow whom Turkey agrees to take back, Turkey will see a Syrian refugee resettled directly to Europe, the deal outlines.

The agreement makes clear the total number is to be limited to about 72,000 out of nearly 3 million Syrians in Turkey. The deal could be abandoned if the number has been exceeded according to the deal.

As part of Turkey’s agreement with the EU, Turkish authorities designated a list of 25,000 Syrians as candidates to be sent to Europe. 

Under the EU-Turkey roadmap determined last Friday, a coordination structure must be created by March 25 and some 4,000 personnel - more than half from other European Union member states - deployed to the islands by next week.

"We must move very swiftly and in a coordinated manner over the next few days to get the best possible result," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said after meeting with EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos in Athens.

Avramopoulos said France, Germany and the Netherlands had already pledged logistics and personnel. "We are at a crucial turning point ... The management of the refugee crisis for Europe as a whole hinges on the progress and success of this agreement," he said.

However, on Monday, the day after the formal start of an agreement intended to close off the main route through which a million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe last year, authorities said 1,662 people had arrived on Greek islands by 7 am (0500 GMT), twice the official count of the day before.

A UNHCR volunteer carries a boy as refugees wait to be transferred to the Moria registration centre, after arriving at the port of Mytilene on the Greek island of Lesbos, following a rescue operation by the Greek Coast Guard, March 21, 2016.


TRTWorld, Reuters