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Fragile progress on EU-Turkey refugee agreement

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Fragile progress on EU-Turkey refugee agreement


(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission adopted its second report on the EU-Turkey refugee agreement Wednesday, showing that while there has been progress in its implementation, progress so far remains fragile.

The EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 stated that all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey to the Greek islands and whose asylum applications are declared inadmissible should be returned to Turkey.

This is portrayed as a temporary step designed to help end human suffering by showing there is no benefit in following the route offered by the smugglers.

Under the Statement, the EU will resettle a Syrian from Turkey to the EU for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands. Priority is given to migrants who have not previously entered or tried to enter the EU irregularly, within the framework of the existing commitments.

There has been a sharp decrease of people crossing irregularly or losing their lives in the Aegean on their way from Turkey into Greece. The Commission says this is proof of the agreement's effectiveness so far and also shows that the business model of smugglers can be broken.

The report also shows that EU Member States have increased their efforts on resettlement – offering legal and safe pathways as an alternative. Return operations have continued to be carried out.

The Commission reports that all Member States have sent their contribution certificates for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey which will allow for the accelerated disbursement of the Facility to be delivered and the first EUR 1 billion to start benefiting refugees by the end of the summer. Since the publication on 4 May of the Third Progress report on the implementation of Turkey's Visa Liberalisation Roadmap, progress has also continued towards fulfilling the remaining benchmarks of the visa liberalisation roadmap.

EC first vice-president Frans Timmermans said the EU was on track to contract EUR 1 billion of projects under the Refugee Facility by the end of the summer. But he warned that there was still a need to fully implement all elements of the Statement: "This includes stepping up resettlement and increasing Greece's capacity to address the humanitarian situation and deal with asylum applications in line with EU law. The Turkish authorities also need to complete the implementation of the visa liberalisation roadmap."

In the next implementation phase, the Commission says urgent attention should be given by Greece to increase its capacity in processing asylum applications and appeals on an individual basis and in the most timely manner to ensure returns and readmissions, notably through the use of the safe third country concept. Greece should also enhance the reception capacity on the islands and improve the day to day management and coordination of the hotspots, with the coordinated support of the EU and its Member States.

It says Member States should build on the results achieved so far step up their efforts in order to increase substantially the number of resettlements. Equally, Turkey needs to take the necessary measures to fulfil the remaining visa liberalisation benchmarks as soon as possible in order to enable the EU to lift the visa requirements for Turkish citizens.

The Commission will present its third report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement in September 2016.

Further Information

Communication: Second Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement

MEMO: Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement – Questions and Answers

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