Tusk says Turkey is best example for world on treating refugees

European Council head Donald Tusk heaped high praise on Turkey for its reception of Syrian refugees as he said country served as 'best example' in world on caring for those fleeing war

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

(L-R) EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans, EU Council President Donald Tusk, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a press conference at Gaziantep University in Gaziantep, Turkey on April 23, 2016.

Updated Apr 23, 2016

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, European Council head Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission  Vice President Frans Timmermans gave a joint press conference on Saturday at Gaziantep University after they visited the refugee camp. 

During the conference, European Council head Donald Tusk heaped high praise on Turkey for its reception of Syrian refugees on Saturday, saying the country served as "the best example" in the world on caring for those fleeing war.

"Today Turkey is the best example for the whole world (on) how we should treat refugees," he said.

"No one has a right to lecture Turkey on what it should be doing,"

Tusk added, "This is not only a political and formal assessment... this is also my very private and personal feeling."

EU Council President Donald Tusk and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. (AA)

Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu said in the conference that "with our deal with the EU, our aim was to stop Aylan Kurdi's from washing ashore ever again." 

Davutoglu stated that gaining visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was "vital" to the success of a crucial migrant deal.

Davutoglu also underlined Turkey has fulfilled all its promises and everyone should do one's bit.

In the conference, Merkel indicates Germany is pushing for safe zones in Syria near border with Turkey at international peace talks.

Before the conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border, kicking off a high-stakes visit aimed at boosting a month-old refugee deal plagued by moral and legal concerns.

Merkel, joined by Donald Tusk and Frans Timmermans, headed to the Nizip 2 Camp near Gaziantep after touching down in the country's south-east.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) upon her arrival in Gaziantep, Turkey on April 23, 2016. (AA)

"Welcome to Turkey, the world's largest refugee hosting country," read a huge banner hanging over the entrance to the camp.

The aim of the visit is to promote the six-billion-euro ($6.7 billion) deal to return refugees arriving on Greek shores to Turkey, which has come under fire from rights groups, the UN refugee agency and some EU leaders.

The European leaders are keen to show how funds are helping Turkey improve conditions for the 2.7 million refugees the country is hosting.

Security for the visit was high: the delegation arrived at the camp on a coach with snipers on the roof. Police had earlier arrested six people suspected of links to the DAESH terror group accused of plotting an attack.

Merkel met some of the camp's younger residents as she inaugurated an EU-funded child protection centre, bending to praise the drawings of several children armed with colouring pencils in a brightly-decorated classroom, before receiving presents and kisses from other youngsters.

The success of the refugee deal between Turkey and EU, which has sharply reduced the number of people crossing from Turkey to Greece, was also called into question, with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) saying the numbers were "once again ticking up".

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk after a news conference at the end of a EU-Turkey summit in Brussels March 8, 2016. (Reuters)

Merkel had said the Turkey visit was a chance to take stock of the implementation of the refugee deal and discuss the next steps, as well as evaluate conditions on the ground for those who have fled the devastating five-year war in Syria.

Refugee schools, hospitals

"We have schools and hospitals, life is good here," Mohamed Tomos, 49, who fled Damascus with his wife and four children and now lives with them in Nizip 2 Camp.

"But we want to know what our future holds. If the war ended today, tomorrow I would go to Syria," he said.

The leaders will wind up the visit with a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.