Turkey says EU needs holistic view of refugee crisis

Turkey’s European Union minister says that 28-member bloc needs integrated approach to find concrete resolution to increasing refugee flow from Middle East to Europe

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Turkey's European Union (EU) Minister Volkan Bozkir speaks on the latest refugee deal between Turkey and the bloc to the semi-official Anadolu Agency during an extensive interview in Ankara on March 10, 2016.

Turkey's European Union (EU) Minister Volkan Bozkir has said that the 28-state bloc should have an overall outlook concerning increasing refugee flow from troublesome Middle Eastern states to the continent - mostly through Turkey - in order to develop a comprehensive resolution to the growing problem.

"We need to look at the problem from five different filters. One is the Syrian question. It is the ultimate basis of the problem," Bozkir told Turkey's semi-official Anadolu Agency during an extensive interview in Ankara on Thursday.

"On the one hand, the terror [threat] has emerged because the [dangerous] developments could not be prevented in Syria. On the other hand, illegal migration has arised [as a result]. Therefore, first of all, we need to make considerations for resolution of the Syrian question," Bozkir said.

"The Syria-Turkey border is the second filter. The third filter is concerning the areas between Turkish and Greek shores where illegal migration has been intense," the EU minister pointed out.

"The fourth filter is the developments between Greece and the Balkans route. And the final point refers to the issues of  how refugees could go to further Europe from the Balkans," he underlined.

A deal between Turkey and the European Union to readmit refugees does not apply to people already on Greek islands but to those who arrive once the agreement is in effect, Bozkir indicated.

The number of refugees Turkey will take back will be in the thousands or tens of thousands, not in the hundreds of thousands or millions, Bozkir also stated on his Twitter account.

The European Union has offered Turkey 6 billion euros in aid to curb refugee flow. Under the draft deal struck on Monday, Turkey also received promises of faster visa liberalisation for Turks travelling to Europe and a speeding up of Ankara's long-stalled EU membership talks.

The aim of the deal is to discourage refugees and break the grip of human smugglers who have sent them on perilous journeys across the Aegean Sea. But refugees have continued to try to cross from Turkey's coast in recent days.

"Forming the mindset that 'You can't go there anymore, there's no hope there' is the basis of preventing [refugee flow]," Bozkir said.

He also stated that Turkey would implement the EU's conditions for visa-free travel to Europe by May 1, seen by many Turks as the main benefit of the deal. EU leaders set requirements including changing Turkey's visa policy towards Muslim-populated states and introducing harder-to-fake biometric passports.

More than 130,000 people this year have reached Europe from Turkey, which borders Iran and conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, while 350 people have died on the perilous journey, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

More than 35,000 people are currently trapped at the Greek-Macedonian border at Idomeni as Europe tries to close the Balkan route to foreigners fleeing violence and economic upheaval.

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.

During the brutal Syrian civil war nearly 8 million people have been displaced inside the country while at least 5 million have fled to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.


TRTWorld and agencies