European leaders are close to agreeing the “large scale and rapid” deportation of tens of thousands of economic migrants to Turkey, it has been claimed, as part of a new strategy to end the migration crisis.
At a summit in Brussels on Monday, EU leaders hope to convince Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish prime minister, to accept the mass removal of non-Syrian migrants back to his territory.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, last night set out a strategy that also includes “closing” the migrant trail north from Greece through the Balkans to Austria and Germany.
Photo: REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
Greece, then isolated, will be supported with hundreds of millions of euros in aid while the tens of thousands of migrants there are either rehomed around the EU, or deported. Mr Tusk said he recognised that Athens fears it will become a “warehouse of souls”.
The EU has set a target of November to end internal border controls and restore the normal Schengn system.
“For the first time since the beginning of the migration crisis, I can see a European consensus emerging,” said Mr Tusk in an upbeat letter to leaders.
He said that the Turkish government is ready to accept the “large-scale and rapid return from Greece of all migrants not in need of international protection.”
He admitted: “The political will is there but it poses a logistical challenge, in which we have to support Greece.”
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, said he was hopeful for a deal in which Turkey will take back all non-Syrian refugees.
Photo: REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
“If it works with the non-Syrians we have dealt with 40 to 50 percent of the entire refugee stream already,” he said.
In what Dimitris Avramoupolos, the migration commission said was a sign of “good will”, the EU handed out the first €95 million in aid out of a €3 billion fund for Turkey, and said that progress was being made on a deal that would let Turks visit the Schengen zone for up to six months without a visa.
Those sweeteners were agreed at a November summit in which Turkey promised to cut the number of migrants going to Greece by boat. But Mr Tusk admitted on Friday that the numbers are still “far too high”, with an average of nearly 2,000 arrivals a day last month.
In a taste of the rows to come on Monday, Alexis Tsipras, the Greek leader, insisted that migrants could not be “imprisoned” in his country and accused his counterparts of an “unfriendly act” by sealing the Balkans route.
“These countries are destroying Europe!” he said. “How can we stop people if they want to keep going? They have been bombed in their homes, have risked their lives to escape to come to Greece, the gateway to Europe. But the refugees’ Mecca lies to the north.”