The EU said Tuesday it would step up resettling refugees now in Turkey and help reinforce Turkish coast guard patrols under a crisis plan discussed during talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ankara will meanwhile put “priority” on setting up six new refugee reception centers partially funded by the EU under the draft plan published by the European Commission following Erdogan’s visit to Brussels on Monday.
“It is clear that we need Turkey. The Commission will come to its aid,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told the European Parliament before he unveiled the proposals.
“The European Union and Turkey must work together, develop an asylum policy and help the unlucky ones who come to us.”
The EU agreed in July to resettle 22,504 Syrian refugees currently living in camps outside the bloc, including those in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Though the new plan disclosed no figures, the European Union pledged to increase the numbers of refugees it resettles from Turkey, which has admitted some 2.2 million from the wars in Syria and Iraq.
EU President Donald Tusk said that according to Turkish estimates another three million potential refugees may come from the Syrian city of Aleppo and surrounding areas.
“Work on a structured EU-wide approach to resettlement shall be stepped up,” the commission said after pointing out it would support existing European schemes which “could enable refugees in Turkey to enter the EU in an orderly manner.”
Despite opposition from some member states, the EU has also pledged to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers throughout the bloc from overstretched Greece and Italy.
EU officials see cooperation with Turkey, which is a gateway to Europe from Middle East war zones, as crucial to tackle the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Under the plan, the EU said “it intends to support Turkey to strengthen its capacity to combat migrant smuggling, notably reinforcing the Turkish coast guard patrolling and surveillance capacitites.”
Turkey would meanwhile boost its coast guard’s interception capacities, increase patrols and work more with its counterparts from Greece, the first European destination for refugees.
Ankara would also work toward integrating its refugees into the broader society by offering them jobs as well as health and education services, it said.
At present, Turkey does not give Syrians fleeing civil war at home refugee status, but refers to them as “guests.”
“EU funding can be used to support such measures,” it added.