Officials from international organizations and different countries praised Turkey's policies on migration and refugees in a summit on Friday, stressing that the country had shouldered great responsibility in helping alleviate human suffering.
Speaking at the summit in Kartepe district of northwestern Kocaeli province entitled "Migration, Refugees, Humanity," former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou praised Turkey for hosting more than 3 million Syrian refugees, adding that no other country shoulders such responsibility.
Stressing that refugees have become an international issue, Papandreou called for increasing cooperation to support them. He also underscored that the Sochi deal reached by Turkey and Russia was significant in preventing additional human suffering and new waves of refugees adding that the deal needs to be fully implemented.
The summit was attended by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, U.N. resident coordinator Irena Vojackova-Sollorano, the head of the EU delegation to Turkey Christian Berger, UNHCR Turkey representative Katharina Lumpp as well as many academics and officials.
In relation to the efforts of Turkey to handle the refugee issue, Soylu said in the summit "Some 218,950 irregular migrants and 4,560 human traffickers were held within Turkey only this year." He also stated that thanks to Turkey's refugee deal with the EU, there has been significant progress in preventing human loss in the sea during illegal transitions as compared to previous years. As the neighboring country of war-torn Syria, Turkey hosts 3.5 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. With an aim of meeting the needs of refugees, the country has spent more than $32 billion from its own national resources.
"The migration agreement that we signed with the EU on March 18, 2016 has been successfully implemented so far," Çavuşoğlu highlighted in the summit as well. In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea, and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
"The EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 continues to deliver results and its smooth implementation remains of utmost importance both for our member states and Turkey," Berger said.
The EU delegation head emphasized that "the EU has been working closely with Turkey since the very beginning of the crisis in Syria, trying to find a political solution, providing humanitarian assistance and responding to the needs of them."
The EU pledged a total 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) in funding for the refugees, and promised to mobilize the second 3 billion euros tranche by the end of 2018.
Çavuşoğlu said that within the scope of the EU migrant deal with Turkey, the EU has been providing support through some projects, pointing out that the bloc can increase support a little more. He also warned against the recent rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric and xenophobia in the world as a result of refugee waves.
Touching on the return of refugees to their home countries, Çavuşoğlu stated that Ankara understands that is it is up the refugees to go back to their countries voluntarily and highlighted there is no pressure on refugees to return.
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