Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkey Demands More Support from EU, NATO Over Migrant Crisis


EU Council President Charles Michel, center, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, right, welcome Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan before their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 9, 2020.

Turkey's president demanded the European Union and NATO give more support for Syrian refugees despite European anger over Turkey's decision to open its borders to Europe.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after meeting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Monday, "It is very important that the support we demand is met without any further delay."

Turkey's president is asking for more help to deal with millions of Syrian refugees in his country, but recently angered his western partners when he followed through on a longstanding threat to open Turkey's borders with Europe. Erdogan has said Ankara can no longer abide by the 2016 deal that blocks migrants in Turkey from traveling into the European Union. Thousands of migrants have since amassed on the Turkish border with Greece, prompting Greek authorities to fire tear gas to stop the influx.

"It is beyond reason and understanding that a neighboring and ally country can point to us as the cause of the wave of irregular migration,” Erdogan said Monday.

Stoltenberg noted that Turkey has taken on a large share of the burden in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis. "No other ally has suffered more from terrorist attacks, and no other ally holds more refugees," he said.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said before talks with Erdogan on Monday that Turkey must stop encouraging migrants to cross into Greece.

"The events at the Greek-Turkish border clearly point to politically motivated pressure on the EU's external border," adding that "finding a solution to this situation will require relieving the pressure that is put on the border."

Children play as migrants gather in a field in Edirne, near the Turkish-Greek border on March 8, 2020.
Children play as migrants gather in a field in Edirne, near the Turkish-Greek border on March 8, 2020.

Earlier Monday, Germany said the EU is considering accepting up to 1,500 migrant children presently sheltered in Greek camps.

"A humanitarian solution is being negotiated at the European level for a 'coalition of the willing' to take in these children," the government said in a statement. "We want to support Greece in the difficult humanitarian situation of about 1,000 to 1,500 children on the Greek islands."

The statement came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a cabinet meeting with governing coalition partners to discuss the migrant crisis and the COVID-19 health emergency.

Turkey is already hosting 3.7 million refugees, most of them from Syria.

According to the 2016 deal between Europe and Turkey, the EU was supposed to provide Turkey with some $6.8 billion to finance housing and education of migrants. But Ankara says it has not received the money.

On Saturday, Ankara offered one positive gesture, as officials announced they would no longer allow migrants to reach Greece through the Aegean Sea because of safety concerns. But it has put no similar restrictions on its land borders with Bulgaria and Greece, where days of clashes between migrants and Greek border guards are exacerbating tensions.

Thousands of refugees have reached Turkey’s eastern border from land and sea, following fighting in Idlib, Syria, and have been camping out since last week in hopes of making their way to Greece and eventually to other Western European countries.