EU Leaders Approve Turkey Migrant Deal


European leaders have given their approval to a deal with Turkey to control the flow of migrants into Europe after negotiations that focused on granting Turks visa-free travel to EU states and fast-tracking EU accession talks.

“The deal with Turkey is approved,” Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wrote on Twitter, adding: “All illegal migrants who reach Greece from Turkey starting March 20 will be returned.”

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila also claimed the EU and Turkey agreed to open a new chapter in the negotiating process for Turkish accession into the bloc.

News of the deal was greeted with dismay by some. UKIP leader Nigel Farage tweeted:

Sky News reports that Turkey has indicated it is also ready to accept the deal which will involve them taking back migrants who arrive in Greece but who do not qualify for asylum.

The proposal has been described as a “one in one out” policy, where for every person takes back a Syrian migrant will be resettled in Europe.

Ahead of today’s talks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the EU needed to be ready to start returning migrants to Turkey as fast as possible in order not to cause a “pull factor” that would create a new surge of migrants before the new system comes into force.

Yesterday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite warned that proposal was “on the edge of international law” and would be difficult to implement in practice.

Well over a million migrants have arrived in Greece by boat from Turkey since January 2015, with more than 130,000 arriving so far this year alone. Many thousands are now stuck in Greece after their route north was blocked when Macedonia sealed the border.

A number of EU nations have raised concerns about re-opening accession talks with Turkey as it continues to crack down on journalists and academics critical of the government.