EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said yesterday that there has been a 97 percent drop in migrant arrivals from Turkey to Greece since last year March as a result of the effectiveness of the EU-Turkey migrant deal.
"The EU-Turkey statement continues to work and deliver results," Avramopoulos said at a press conference in Brussels, and that more than 8,800 Syrians in Turkey had now found homes in Europe.
The European Union said that the bloc's migrant agreement with Turkey is working well but that more effort is needed to speed asylum applications.
But the Commission also added that "significant additional efforts" are needed to cut the asylum application backlog and improve processing in Greece so more people can be returned to Turkey.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March 2016, to discourage irregular migration across the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of the nearly 3 million refugees in Turkey. Since then, the number of refugees illegally crossing the Aegean between Turkey and Greece has dropped 85 percent, according to the Turkish Coast Guard.
The March 2016 deal employs a one-for-one formula under which failed asylum seekers in Europe are returned to Turkey while Syrian refugees are resettled in EU states in a quota system.
As another part of the deal, the EU said it would open two chapters in Ankara's EU accession negotiations, provide funding for refugees and grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens to the Schengen zone. Ankara criticizes the EU for not holding to its promises and for not granting visa-free travel within the Schengen zone.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday criticized the EU because it failed in its promise to deliver the $3-billion aid to migrants. "The amount Turkey spent on refugees exceeded $30 billion. They [the EU] delivered $850 million only to date. They were supposed to give $3 billion until July 2016, and another $3 billion until end of last year. They didn't keep their promise. Why? Because they are doing what is befitting of them," he said, in a speech addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) provincial chairmen.
In a recent inteview with German magazine Der Spiegel, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Günther Oettinger had called on EU member states to increase their financial contributions to meet the requirements of the refugee agreement with Turkey.
"The member states will have to finance at least $2 billion," Oettinger had said.