European Union Reaches Deal With Turkey On Migration Crisis
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
E.U. leaders have settled on a plan with Turkey to limit the flow of migrants into Europe. It essentially makes Turkey the processing site for migrants. The controversial deal was agreed on today at a European Union summit in Brussels. Lauren Frayer reports.
LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Thousands of migrants and refugees arrive each day in Greece having paid smugglers for a ride across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey. But starting this Sunday, they will be turned back. The European Union will pay for their transport to new refugee camps that will be built in Turkey. The migrants will have their asylum applications reviewed there and up to 72,000 Syrian refugees will then be resettled in the European Union's 28 countries. Essentially, Europe is pushing back migrants and outsourcing its refugee screening system to Turkey, which has already absorbed nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.
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AHMET DAVUTOGLU: But this was the only option for us. There is no better option.
FRAYER: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu heralded the accord as an unprecedented humanitarian cooperation.
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DAVUTOGLU: We will be hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder and we have to act not as politicians but as human beings. Treating to refugees not some adventurers but victims of oppression.
FRAYER: Of course, his country is getting a lot in return - nearly $7 billion in E.U. aid. By the end of June, Turks will be allowed to travel to Europe without getting a visa first. And the E.U. will reopen talks on Turkey joining its union.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Liberty, liberty...
FRAYER: Outside the summit, protests by Kurds, Syrians and human rights groups who oppose such push backs of migrants from Greece and question Turkey's own human rights record. Andrew Stroehlein is a spokesman for Human Rights Watch.
ANDREW STROEHLEIN: The problem is that Turkey is not a safe country to return people to. Turkey is looking increasingly unstable. I mean, let's face it, what's happening in Turkey now in the southeast, the conflict there, also the bombings in Ankara. This is not looking like a particularly stable partner.
FRAYER: Several European leaders threatened to veto this plan. The fact that they agreed among themselves on this pact is almost as important as the Union's cooperation with Turkey given how divided Europe has been on migration. The E.U. is calling for help from the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration to implement this plan. The IOM's Brussels director, Eugenio Ambrosi, says this is a lot to take on for Turkey, which is still absorbing refugees over its border with Syria.
EUGENIO AMBROSI: The number of people that Turkey has to take care of is very high. The stress on Turkish infrastructure of all sorts on public services - on health services, on education services is very - is very big. Turkey is the largest asylum country in the world right now.
FRAYER: Ambrosi predicts a surge of migrants and refugees across Mediterranean waters to Greece in the next 48 hours as people try to reach Europe before this agreement takes effect. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Brussels.
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