Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu highlighted the importance of taking joint action to deal with the migrant crisis, as he urged the European Union to properly implement the terms of the 2016 deal and undertake burden-sharing responsibilities.
Çavuşoğlu told a live broadcast on NTV that the best way to solve the Afghan migrant crisis is to solve the conflict at home to ensure that people are not forced to leave their homes, as he criticized the EU for failing to abide by the terms of the 2016 migrant pact.
"The EU needs to stop thinking that migrants will not arrive because of COVID," Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the bloc needs to share the burden, by discussing means to tackle the issue and revise its responsibilities and to see which of these responsibilities are met.
"In the next step, the two sides can discuss what needs to be done on an individual and joint level," Çavuşoğlu said and added that it is unacceptable for the EU to say they would send financial assistance and do nothing more.
Some 570,000 people migrated in the past year, while 3 million fled Afghanistan in 2020, Çavuşoğlu said, adding that economic problems were the main reason behind the migrations. He said it is crucial to also provide assistance to neighboring countries like Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Iran.
"We suggest the EU and the international community cooperate regarding the matter," he said, adding that Turkey has been taking precautions at the borders as the country cannot bear the burden of more migrants.
"We also expect Iran to take necessary precautions," he added.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal has been successful in stemming the flow of migrants and refugees, but the EU’s reluctance to take in refugees from Turkey, and bureaucratic hurdles in transferring promised funds for refugees, have led to sharp criticism from Turkish politicians.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the EU for failing to fulfill its pledge to provide funding for migrants and refugees in Turkey as part of the pact while allocating billions of euros to Greece.
Essentially swapping migrants, the EU also promised to accept one Syrian eligible for asylum for every Syrian who was returned to Turkey from the Greek islands without having received asylum. As a result of this, thousands of Syrians have been resettled in the EU, though this pales in comparison to the millions of Syrians Turkey is estimated to be hosting.
By March 2021, only 2,140 migrants have been sent back to Turkey under the pact, which is also due to the overwhelmed asylum system in Greece that drags procedures on for years.
The deal reduced the number of migrants reaching Europe, while Turkey received most of the 6 billion euros ($7.15 billion) in EU support.
Five years on, the pact is failing as Turkey struggles with the increased number of migrants, while the EU is more divided than ever over its asylum policy.
Turkey is hosting 6 million migrants, with nearly 4 million from Syria, its migration authority says. That's 2 million more than in 2016, a heavy burden on a country that only had 60,000 asylum-seekers in 2011 before Syria's civil war broke out.
Meanwhile, Çavuşoğlu also noted that countries should not hurry regarding the recognition of the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
"A balanced approach is necessary as the government needs to be inclusive, with different ethnic groups and women to prevent future crisis," Çavuşoğlu said.