The European Union should update the migration deal signed with Turkey in 2016, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday ahead of an EU summit set to discuss a renewal of the deal.
"It is important that we continue to support Turkey, with 3.7 million Syrian refugees living there, some of whom have been in Turkey for 10 years," von der Leyen told reporters on a visit to Berlin.
"We won't need as much acute humanitarian aid as in the past, but the people need to have a perspective," she said.
A similar call came from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday as he urged the European Union to update its migrant deal with Turkey, highlighting the importance of further funding.
“We need an update to our migration cooperation with Turkey,” Maas told Die Welt newspaper in comments published Monday.
Among other things, the refugee deal between the EU and Turkey helps Ankara crack down on unauthorized migration to the EU and for Greece to send migrants who have reached the Aegean islands illegally back to Turkey.
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.
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