2016-03-17 18:45:00

EU plans deportation of thousands of refugees back to Turkey

(Vatican Radio) European Union leaders are pushing ahead with controversial plans to send tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty back to Turkey amid deep divisions among them over how to manage Europe's biggest refugee emergency since World War Two. The plan is aimed at halting a fresh influx of refugees within a month. 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is predicting that migrants will stop leaving Turkey within three or four weeks.

As the EU-Turkey summit began in Brussels, the Dutch leader told reporters that it is crucial to reach an agreement with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu by Friday. "There is no alternative. We have to come to a deal otherwise the situation in Greece will stay very difficult," he said. 

"The humanitarian crisis will increase. As the West Balkans route has now been closed off, people can not leave Greece. So it is crucial that we come to a deal now and tomorrow," Rutte added.      

Turkey is the source of most refugees heading across the sea to Greece - and seen as a key partner to contain the influx.


Under an EU agreement Turkey would stop migrants from leaving and take back from Greece all new arrivals not eligible for asylum.  For every irregular migrant returned to Turkey, EU countries would take in one Syrian refugee from Turkey, up to a total of 72,000 in a process supervised by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.  

Yet striking as deal won't be easy. Belgian Prime Charles Michel said Turkish negotiating tactics in his words "sometimes resemble a form of blackmail." 

It was in apparent reference to Turkey's demands to receive more aid to deal with the crisis, some 6,6 billion dollars, roughly double the amount that was previously pledged. Turkey also demands speed up EU membership talks and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens   

Additionally European unity looks increasingly fragile after more than 1 million migrants, including many fleeing war-torn Syria, arrived in Europe last year alone. Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orbán for instance, has already said that any deal with Turkey must include assurances that his EU member state won't be forced to take in a quota of refugees. 

Despite the tensions, Greece said it wants EU leaders to hammer out that will not only halt the flow of refugees but also offer a legal way for refugees to resettle and start a new life in Europe. 

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