European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said on Thursday that the Turkey-EU deal has managed to reduce human suffering by stopping the flow of people drowning in the Aegean Sea en route to the Greek islands.
During his address in the European Parliament, Timmermans said the deal with Turkey had reduced the number of people drowning in the Aegean. "We should not forget that the deal with Turkey decreased human suffering," he added. The latest figures from Turkey's Coast Guard show that the EU-Turkey deal is working, with the number of migrants intercepted at sea just 1,536 in April, a substantial decline compared to the more than 8,100 people intercepted in March.
So far, Turkey has received 374 migrants from Greece under the newly implemented EU-Turkey deal, with the latest group of 49 migrants transferred to Turkey by ferry from Greece on Tuesday. Facing a flow of refugees that Europe has not seen since World War II, the EU has turned to Turkey to stem the flow of migrants seeking to reach the continent through Greece, the nearest gateway. The Turkish coasts are in close proximity to Greece's Aegean islands, which are crowded with migrants, especially Syrian refugees who traveled before the EU-Turkey deal was signed on March 18. Under the deal, Turkey will readmit those migrants who either do not apply for asylum in Greece or whose asylum requests were turned down by Greek authorities. The agreement covers only those who traveled from Turkey to Greece illegally after March 20.Timmermans said the EU should do more to engage with Turkey and continued, "If they [Turkey] want to come close to the European Union so badly, let them prove that they can."
He stated that opening Chapter 23 and Chapter 24 is an opportunity to make Turkey improve human rights, justice and freedom of the press. Yet, during the deal signed in March, EU member states could only agree to open one chapter, given the deadlock on Turkey's accession to the 28-bloc union due to objections from the Greek Cypriot administration.