News / Europe

    EU, Turkey, Reach 'Landmark' Deal on Migrant Crisis

    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, speaks with, from left, French President Francois Hollande, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas during a meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, March 18, 2016.
    Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, left, speaks with, from left, French President Francois Hollande, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas during a meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, March 18, 2016.
    VOA News

    The European Union and Turkey agreed Friday on a deal that all sides hope will relieve Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.

    European Council President Donald Tusk and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called it a "landmark" agreement. The prime minister said Friday was a "historic day" for Turkey and the EU.

    "We today realized that Turkey and the EU have the same destiny, the same challenges and the same future," Davutoglu said.

    The deal takes effect Sunday. All migrants who illegally enter Greece from Syria and elsewhere — including those already in Turkey — will be sent to Turkey after they are registered and their claims for asylum in Europe are considered.

    In exchange, thousands of refugees who fled to Turkey and legally sought asylum will be resettled equally across the 28 EU members.

    FILE - Migrants walk along a road from the village of Chamilo to the migrant camp at the village of Idomeni, near the Greek-Macedonian border, Greece, March 15, 2016.
    FILE - Migrants walk along a road from the village of Chamilo to the migrant camp at the village of Idomeni, near the Greek-Macedonian border, Greece, March 15, 2016.

    Turkey already shelters nearly 3 million Syrian refugees. It will get EU financial help to deal with the refugee crisis — it will eventually double to about $6.7 billion — along with quicker EU membership talks and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens across the EU by the end of June, if Turkey meets a number of preconditions.

    Tusk warned that the deal, by itself, would not solve Europe’s migrant crisis.

    “Some may think this agreement is a silver bullet, but the reality is more complex," he said. "It is just one pillar of the comprehensive European strategy and can only work if the other pillars are implemented.”

    Those other pillars include strengthening the EU’s external borders, keeping a well-traveled migrant route across the western Balkans closed and returning to the open-borders Schengen system internally.

    Turkey has a shaky human rights record, and some human rights groups said the plan uses people looking for refuge from war, poverty and terrorism as political pawns.

    Amnesty International slammed the agreement, saying Turkey was not a safe country for refugees or migrants, and that the process of returning asylum seekers would inevitably be "flawed, illegal and immoral.”

    The U.N. refugee agency said it was vital that all sides respect international and European law.

    "How this plan is to be implemented is ... going to be crucial. Ultimately, the response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution. Refugees need protection, not rejection," the UNHCR said in a statement.

    A woman stands in a crowd beside the railway tracks as a train passes beside a refugee camp where thousands of refugees are waiting to be allowed to cross the border into Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Thursday, March 3, 2016.
    A woman stands in a crowd beside the railway tracks as a train passes beside a refugee camp where thousands of refugees are waiting to be allowed to cross the border into Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Thursday, March 3, 2016.

    Even some EU leaders who signed off on the plan said they were not entirely happy with it.

    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said the proposal "is on the edge of international law" and might be hard to implement. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel accused Turkey of blackmail.

    But Europe has been struggling with the refugee crisis for months, and no one has come up with a solution on which everyone can agree.

    FILE - Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.
    FILE - Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.

    More than 1.2 million migrants have landed primarily on Greek and Italian shores since January 2015, and about 4,000 have drowned while trying to cross the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.

    Thousands more have drowned in the dangerous Mediterranean after paying human smugglers. Children have been among the victims.

    Davutoglu said the refugees’ plight was not an issue of bargaining, but an issue of humanitarian values as well as European values.

    VOA's Lisa Bryant contributed to this story from Paris.

    In Photos: Idomeni Camp Refugees Mull Future in Europe

    • Refugees at Idomeni camp keep warm by burning a soiled blanket. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • Refugees at Idomeni camp discuss their next moves; how best to get deeper into the European Union. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • A Syrian mother dashes to stop her kids from playing too close to an open wood fire. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • More than half of the refugees at the Idomeni camp are women or children. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • A Syrian girl navigates a muddy field. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • Refugee kids at Idomeni camp aim for the skies. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • Refugee kids at Idomeni camp play on the train tracks. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • Two refugee kids walk on top of piled up rusty iron railings at Idomeni camp. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • Refugees are on the tracks but going nowhere. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA )
    • A refugee family leaves their temporary home to join the food distribution lines. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • A Greek father and son waiting to hand out food to Idomeni refugees. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • In addition to living in tents, Syrian families have also been camping out in unused freight cars. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)
    • A few hundred refugees are camping out at a gas station 18 kilometers from the Idomeni camp. (Jamie Dettmer for VOA)

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: human right
    March 19, 2016 5:03 AM
    It's EU and US that created all these refugees by waging wars for the sake of same people. now,They are not ready for helping people looking for refuge. Now, They are treating the same people inhumanly by sending them back to Turkey which is using people looking for refuge from war, poverty and terrorism as political pawns to exert money from EU.

    by: Dr Rob Lee
    March 18, 2016 4:04 PM
    Essentially the Atirks flooded Germsny with migrants and now wants much needed bribe money to take them back.

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