Turkey Deal 'Does Little To Cut Migrant Flow'

WOrld-18-dec-2015

A much touted EU-Turkey deal to curb migration has done little to slow the number of people fleeing war and poverty across the Mediterranean to Europe, according to a report released Thursday ahead of an EU summit.

Around 4,000 people have been landing daily this month in Greece from Turkey, the main launchpad for migrant crossings to Europe, according to a report from Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU’s presidency.

That marks only “a slight reduction” compared to November, when 5,000-6,000 people were arriving, the report said, adding it was not clear that the decline was related to the Nov. 29 deal struck by Brussels with Ankara to try curb the migrant flow.

“This decrease may…be attributed to other factors,” said the report seen by AFP.

The report is the first attempt by the EU to evaluate the effectiveness of its strategy to try reduce migration by getting Turkey to tighten its borders in return for aid and other sweeteners.

It also highlighted shortcomings in other areas, including the fact that only two out of 11 planned “hotspots” in Italy and Greece for the processing of migrants were operational, one on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the other on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Progress implementing a plan to share out 160,000 migrants among EU member states was also painfully slow, the report said, noting that only around 200 refugees had been relocated from Greece and Italy to other countries.

Nearly one million refugees and migrants, most fleeing the Syrian war, have arrived in Europe this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Germany, the top destination for migrants, said earlier this month that the numbers of asylum-seekers entering its territory had declined due to harsher weather in the Mediterranean.

But thousands have also found themselves blocked at Greece’s border with its northern neighbour Macedonia, which has built a barrier along the frontier to try control the flow of migrants, restricting entry exclusively to refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Macedonia’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said Thursday his government “does not want borders with barriers, which is not a long-term solution” but that the country of two million inhabitants faced an “even greater challenge” than Greece in trying to handle the huge numbers of people passing through its territory.

Speaking after talks in Athens with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias the Macedonian minister said the blockages could be “overcome if Athens implemented a “credible (asylum-seeker) registration process”.

His call echoed EU demands for Greece to better manage the migrant influx — a call issued with greater insistency after it emerged that at least two of the jihadists who carried out a massacre in Paris on Nov. 13 had been registered in Greece as Syrian refugees.

Germany and several other nations are meeting with the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before a full EU summit to discuss the situation.

Under their November deal, EU leaders pledged three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid to help improve the lot of the more than two million Syrian refugees sheltering on Turkish soil.

In exchange, Turkey agreed to try to limit the numbers travelling to Europe and tackle human smugglers who profit from their desperate journeys.

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