Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Ömer Çelik stressed that in the framework of the deal between Turkey and the European Union the plan on which the EU voluntarily admits Syrian refugees when there has been a significant decrease in illegal migration in the Aegean Sea should be implemented. Answering a written question by Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Onursal Adıgüzel, the EU minister announced, "Some 12,069 Syrians have been sent to European countries so far," and reminded all that according to the deal when there has been a continuous and significant decrease in irregular migration in the Aegean, EU member countries need to admit Syrians on a voluntary basis.
"When it is taken into consideration that the number of death or missing cases dropped from 799 in 2015 to 45 in 2017, the necessity of implementing the plan has been conveyed to the EU side," Çelik said.
The EU minister stated that Turkey has been stressing that the EU needs to increase the number of Syrian refugees to be settled in EU countries. Çelik also pointed out that as part of the deal irregular transitions have been substantially prevented. "While daily transitions in October 2015 were nearly 7,000 people, in January 2018 the number of transitions was nearly 43 people," Çelik added.
Turkey and EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the inflow of refugees to Europe, which is considered unbearable by the EU. Turkey has been a main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the civil war in Syria. With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased by 99 percent; thus, it also prevented the loss of many lives on the sea.
The deal included a 6 billion euro aid package to help Turkey care for millions of refugees hosted in the country, and the EU promised to initially allocate 3 billion euros in its first tranche for projects to support Syrian refugees. The deal was also to provide visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the Schengen area. However, this is also yet to be implemented as relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained and await resolution. Some EU countries' stance toward critical issues for Turkey's national security has further increased the tension. Officials from Ankara have been calling on Europe to give up its oscillating stance and take Turkey's legitimate concerns into consideration.
While Turkey hosts more Syrian refugees than any other country in the world, the issue of refugees has caused great disputes in Europe as some member countries are reluctant to take a share of the responsibility. Ankara says it has spent more than 20 billion euros ($24.1 billion) from its own national resources to help and shelter refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.