The European Union has reached an agreement with Turkey that it hopes will ease the migrant crisis that has roiled the Continent for the past year.
Under the deal struck Friday, asylum seekers who take clandestine routes to Greece from Turkey are to be sent back, a significant step in the bloc’s effort to deal with the migrant exodus. The leaders of the 28 nations in the bloc and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey approved the accord over strenuous objections from humanitarian groups, who warned that the deal violated international law on the treatment of refugees.
The plan, which took effect over the weekend, faces many challenges. There are many alternative routes into Europe, and it is unclear how effective the Turkish and Greek authorities will be at rounding up migrants who use boats to cross the Aegean and sending them back to Turkey. Turkey is also in the midst of its own security crisis, raising questions about the country’s ability to implement the deal and cope with the huge numbers of migrants on its soil.
The deal calls for Turkey to receive about $6.6 billion in aid to help organizations look after the migrants there. Also promised are visa-free travel for Turkey’s citizens in most of Europe by this summer if Turkey meets certain conditions, and the eventual resumption of negotiations with Turkey on membership in the European Union.
The European Union also will resettle one Syrian from a camp in Turkey in exchange for each Syrian who used an irregular route to reach Greece.
The first exchanges could take place as soon as April 4, European Union officials said.
[New York Times]