Tusk warns ‘economic migrants’ to keep away from Europe

EU President Donald Tusk calls on ‘economic migrants’ to stop risking their lives to come to Europe

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Council President Donald Tusk looks on as he meets with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at the Maximos Mansion in Athens, Greece on March 3, 2016.

EU President Donald Tusk on Thursday warned “economic migrants” not to come to Europe, and criticised European countries that have taken unilateral action to tackle the crisis.

Tusk paid a visit to Greece and Turkey on Thursday, the two countries which have been affected the most by Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War Two, and acknowledged that the number of people trying to reach EU territory from Turkey remained "far too high."

His travels came ahead of a critical summit between EU and Turkish leaders on March 7, which Brussels aims to take concrete decisions to ensure lasting reduction in the flow of refugees fleeing war, poverty and persecution in the Middle East and Africa.

Following talks with Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, in Athens, Tusk called on “economic migrants” saying it was useless to try to reach the European Union, which is struggling to maintain its prized Schengen passport-free travel area due to the refugee crisis.

The EU plans to announce a "roadmap" on Friday to restore the Schengen-zone to full force, by November.

"I want to appeal to all potential illegal economic migrants wherever you are from: Do not come to Europe," Tusk said.

"Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing."

With thousands trapped at the Greek-Macedonian border after Austria and the Balkan states began restricting refugee entries, Tusk lashed out at "unilateral" actions by EU members as "detrimental to the European spirit of solidarity."

Tsipras said he would like to see sanctions imposed on EU states that undermine joint decisions by the 28-member bloc.

In Ankara, Tusk said that no numbers had been agreed upon with Turkey regarding its measures to reduce the numbers of people taking to unseaworthy boats to reach Europe through Greece, but that the end goal was to completely eliminate the phenomenon.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (R) and President of the European Council, Donald Tusk (L) hold a joint press conference after their meeting at Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey on March 03, 2016.

"It is for Turkey to decide how best to achieve such a reduction," Tusk said after meeting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, calling for a "fast and large scale mechanism" to ship back asylum seekers from Greece.

"It would effectively break the business model of smugglers."

During a news briefing with Tusk, Davutoglu pointed out that Turkey and Greece cannot be expected to shoulder the burden of the refugees alone. 

Turkey has spent nearly $10 billion of its own resources on the refugees, whose number in the country have been climbing to 2.7 million people.

The EU agreed on a 3 billion euro ($3.3B) aid deal with Turkey to help shelter refugees, mainly from the Syrian civil war, in return for preventing their travelling in to Europe.

The EU also declared a 700-million-euro ($760-million) emergency aid plan on Wednesday to help Greece and other member countries, this will be the first time humanitarian aid will be used within Europe.

A dinghy full of refugees is towed by a Turkish Coast Guard fast rigid-hulled inflatable boat (not seen) on the Turkish territorial waters of the North Aegean Sea, off the shores of Izmir, Turkey on February 28, 2016.


TRTWorld and agencies