Turkey, Greece Vow Intensified Joint Effort to Stem Illegal Migrant Flow
Turkey and Greece vowed close cooperation on March 8 on a plan to send back migrants rejected by Europe, laying aside historic differences in an agreement they hope will end illegal flows of people across the Aegean Sea.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu that the readmission agreement would help to reduce the “unbearable flow” into Europe.
“It sends a clear message to migrants coming from third countries, rather than countries at war, … that there is neither the political will nor the ability to cross to Europe,” he said after meetings in Turkey’s Aegean coastal city of İzmir.
“This is the reality we ought to sincerely convey to them in order to stop, to reduce, this unbearable flow for our countries.”
The prime ministers were meeting a day after Ankara offered to the EU to take back all irregular migrants who cross into Europe from Turkish soil in return for agreement in principle on its demands for more money, faster EU membership talks and earlier visa-free travel.
“The aim here is to discourage irregular migration and … to recognize those Syrians in our camps who the EU will accept – though we will not force any one to go against their will – on legal routes,” Davutoğlu said, adding that there would be no extra financial burden on Turkey.
“Europe will cover all costs of readmitting migrants from the Aegean, the readmission costs [including] returning to Turkey and to a third country, or their own country,” he said.
Davutoğlu heralded what he described as an “important victory for our citizens” in the agreement from EU leaders to bring forward visa liberalization for Turks to June from the end of 2016. He vowed Turkey would pass the necessary legislation, 9 laws, in the coming months to see it implemented.
The EU agreed to the earlier target date provided Ankara meets all the conditions including changing its visa policy and introducing harder-to-fake biometric passports.
“We will pass the legislation needed for visa-free [travel] in the coming months,” he said, and called on Turkey’s opposition parties to support the effort in parliament.
Tsipras said the two countries would step up efforts to tackle people smugglers in the Aegean Sea and would not simply implement “some plan imposed on us by some of our partners.”