Erdoğan slams EU’s migrant support discrimination against Turkey

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A child looks on as migrants wait to pass the buffer zone at the Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule, in Edirne district, on Feb. 29, 2020. (AFP File Photo)
by DAILY SABAH

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the European Union for failing to fulfill its pledge to provide funding for migrants and refugees in Turkey as part of the 2016 migration pact while allocating billions of euros to Greece.

Speaking at the International Migration Conference, Erdoğan said the 6 billion euros ($7.29 billion) promised by March 18 in the refugee deal has still yet to be paid in full.

“The EU granted Greece 3 billion euros of support for 100,000 migrants, but it has made no such move for the 4 million migrants in Turkey,” Erdoğan told the conference held by the 9 Eylül University in western Izmir province.

In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and to find a solution for the influx of migrants heading to EU countries.

According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros ($7.30 billion) in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian migrants. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also a perk of the agreement. In addition, the customs union between Turkey and the EU was to be updated. In exchange for these promises, Turkey took responsibility for discouraging migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian migrants living in Turkey.

Despite significant developments controlling migration traffic, Turkey has frequently complained that the EU has not fully delivered on its commitments stated in the deal and criticized the international community for its indifference to the migrant crisis. Accordingly, although the first stage of funding was provided to Turkey, the EU has yet to fulfill the second stage or its other obligations such as establishing the visa-free deal for Turkish citizens and updating the customs union. The customs union is a trade agreement that came into effect on Dec. 31, 1995, following the March 6, 1995, Decision of the European Community-Turkey Association Council to implement an association between the two parties in which goods may travel between the two entities without any customs restrictions.

Regarding the ongoing migration crisis and the Syrian conflict, Erdoğan said they have shown that putting up walls and wire fences or sinking boats is no solution to the problems.

“Security forces of our neighbor, Greece, pierce the boats carrying migrants, causing them to die. We will continue to inform the globe about Greek security forces’ inhumane activities,” Erdoğan said.

Several media reports, including German weekly Der Spiegel and videos published by Turkey, have provided evidence of Frontex guards working with Greek authorities to push migrants back to Turkish waters.

Migrant rights agencies have warned that the arrivals, many of them fleeing conflict, have the right to asylum but are put in danger by the border guards’ aggressive tactics.

Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements. Under the principle of “non-refoulement,” people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety are threatened due to their race, religion, nationality, or being members of a social or political group.

Numerous reports by journalists, researchers and witnesses have cataloged the way in which migrants and asylum-seekers have been forced back across the border to Turkey or left stranded in the Aegean Sea without aid by the Greek coast guard, despite the conservative government’s denials in Athens.

Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives.

Turkey, which hosts nearly 4.5 million migrants, has also accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to what it says is a blatant abuse of human rights.

“We shared our bread with the migrants and refugees, contrary to the rich countries which confined them in detention camps,” Erdoğan said.

The president also criticized the U.S. for its cooperation with the PKK terrorist group’s Syrian offshoots the PYD and YPG in Syria.

“A US general says they are on the side of PKK/PYD/YPG in Syria. What kind of a NATO ally are you?” Erdoğan asked, questioning Washington’s sincerity about its partnership with Ankara.

He continued by saying that the U.S. partnership with YPG in Syria does not provide security for the migrants and refugees.

“They have no concerns about protecting refugees. They are still with terrorists,” he said.

The president noted that recently Turkey has observed terrorist activities carried out by the YPG/PKK targeting safe zones in northern Syria and underlined that the Turkish military would not “hesitate to take necessary steps” should such attacks continue.

Erdoğan continued by highlighting that Turkey is the only country that hosts and protects Syrian migrants and added that the Turkish military’s presence in the region is a bulwark against their possible massacre.

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