Turkey and the European Union struck a deal Friday aimed at preventing migrants from crossing the Aegean Sea, declaring that those arriving on Greek shores will be returning to Turkey beginning on Sunday.
The deal hinges on a provision where up to 72,000 Syrian asylum seekers who travelled to Greece will be returned to Turkey. In exchange, the EU has agreed to resettle up to 72,000 Syrian asylum seekers directly from Turkey.
Turkey will also gain refugee aid and closer EU ties.
“We today realized that Turkey and the EU have the same destiny, the same challenges, and the same future,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
However, advocacy group Amnesty International slammed the deal, calling it “immoral, illegal” and a “historic blow” to human rights, arguing that Turkey isn’t a safe country for refugees and migrants.
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) March 18, 2016
“The response must be about addressing the compelling needs of individuals fleeing war and persecution,” the UN Refugee Agency said.
According to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, 4,000 officials would be needed in Greece to help process new arrivals with a cost of €300 million ($338 million) over the next six months. The EU has pledged to cover the cost of the return operations.
To comply with international law, those arriving from Turkey will have their asylum claims processed in Greece before being sent back.
“Today, we have a balanced proposal that takes on board Cypriot concerns,” EU President Donald Tusk said.
The EU has pledged to open negotiations on financial and budgetary provisions with Turkey before July.
(Image: ECHO, Mathias Eick /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)