EU official: Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens is near

DAILY SABAH WITH AA
ISTANBUL
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European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said Monday that the visa-free deal for Turkish citizens is nearly ready and the bloc is closely working with Ankara to solve remaining issues.

"We want to herald in the visa-free deal for Turkish citizens soon. I am the person responsible for this process. We are near the end," he said at the 8th Bosporus Summit in Istanbul.

The EU official praised the Turkish hospitality that has welcomed millions of refugees into the country.

"I would like, on behalf of the EU, to praise and commend Turkey once again for the tremendous hospitality it has shown toward these desperate people," he said.

Avramopoulos said migration is not simply an Italian, Greek, Turkish or Syrian challenge but rather a global one.

"Today, more than 65 million displaced people and more than 250 million international migrants across the world expect a global solution," he said.

He said the cooperation between neighboring countries and key partners has become an essential pillar of Europe's comprehensive approach to migration.

"The results and success of the EU-Turkey Statement are one important example," Avramopoulos said, referring to the March 2016 refugee deal.

The March 2016 deal aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey now hosts some 3 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. The country has spent nearly $25 billion helping and sheltering refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

The deal included a 6 billion euro aid package to help Turkey care for the millions of refugees being hosted in the country.

"Together, we succeeded in substantially reducing irregular and dangerous crossings, saving lives, which has resulted in a drastic decrease in the number of deaths," the commissioner said, adding the EU also continues to support Turkey through the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, worth 3 billion euros.

"Thanks to this, almost half a million Syrian children are receiving an education and around 2 million people are able to access health care," he said. "In addition, 1 million of the most vulnerable refugees are now receiving monthly electronic cash transfers to cover their everyday needs."

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