As EU officials continue to praise Turkey's role in the Turkish-EU refugee deal and stress the bloc's commitment to it, Turkish politicians have criticized the EU for not keeping its promises.
"The EU-Turkey migrant deal works and it continues to be effective: The number of refugee arrivals via the Eastern Mediterranean has been drastically reduced since it came into force," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said Thursday. "The EU needs Turkey and Turkey needs the EU if we want to truly manage this challenge together."
"Working with key third countries, including not only the north and Horn of Africa, but also our western Balkan neighbors, is essential," Avramopoulos said. "So far, there have been around 146,000 arrivals by sea to Europe in 2017, compared to more than double last year."
However, Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said on Thursday that only 899 million euros of the pledged 3 billion-euro package have been disbursed. "The EU's budget model regarding the emerging humanitarian crisis is interested in payment rather than refugees," Çelik said. He also highlighted Turkey's role in taking in 3 million refugees, saying: "Turkey has protected democracies and political culture in Europe with this refugee deal."
Sharing the same sentiment, the head of the Refugee Rights Committee in Parliament, Atay Uslu, said that the EU did not fulfill the requirements of the refugee deal, which was signed to slow the flow of refugees and migrants from Turkey into Europe.
Following his visit to a refugee camp in Turkey's western Aydın province, Uslu asserted that the EU has not kept its word in providing the 3 billion-euro package to Ankara as part of the re-admission agreement, saying that despite that the EU offered to make an agreement to prevent the influx of refugees from continuing on to Europe, the bloc has not kept its word. "Although they offered to pay 3 billion euros in the first stage and an additional 3 billion euros at the end of 2018, they have provided 800 million euros up to the present," he said, stressing that Turkey's burden has not been adequately relieved in the scope of the agreement.
Evaluating the current situation inside the Aydın refugee camp accompanied by members of the Refugee Rights Committee, Uslu said that despite the problems Turkey faces regarding refugees, Ankara does not bear enmity toward them, noting the approximately 4 million refugees in the country.
Explaining that the repatriation center in Aydın is providing world-class assistance to refugees, Uslu said that everyone should be well aware that Syrian refugees have fled war and mistreatment in their country, stressing that Turkey will do its part until the bloodshed and persecution ends. "We are exerting the utmost effort to prevent the deaths of civilians," Uslu said.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March 2016 to discourage irregular migration via the Aegean Sea, taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly the then 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal included an aid package of 6 billion euros to help Ankara assist the millions of refugees in the country. Ankara says it has spent more than 20 billion euros from national resources for helping and sheltering refugees since the Syrian civil war began. The agreement also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen zone that is mostly comprised of EU member states.