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New migration deal with Turkey meets with criticism in European Parliament

EU parliamentarians across party lines have expressed grave reservations about a deal aimed at curbing migration to Europe. Many questioned whether the agreement with Ankara violated international conventions.

The EU-Turkey deal lauded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a possible "breakthrough" in the refugee crisis met with sometimes massive criticism after being presented to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The deal, which was struck at a European Union-Turkey summit on Monday, would see Ankara take back migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross to Europe. In return, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee for everyone that had been forced to return to Turkish soil.

In addition, Turkey is to receive billions of euros in financial aid to care for the migrants and refugees, and has been promised additional concessions such as visa-free access to the EU for Turkish citizens.

'Horse-trading'

Some EU parliamentarians slammed the agreement with Turkey as an inhuman trade-off.

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Some European countries have erected anti-migrant fences

"This agreement cannot be a form of horse-trading in the skins of refugees," said Gianni Pittella, the head of the Socialist political group in the parliament.

These sentiments were echoed by Gabriele Zimmer, who chairs the far-left GUE/NGL group: "You don't trade in people or fundamental rights. What a shabby image we are giving off as the EU."

Syed Kamall, the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, questioned whether the agreement was in line either with European or international regulations.

"I struggle to see how much of this is either legal or practical. Even in desperate times, should we just tear up our own rules and international conventions?" he asked.

'Highly problematic'

Guy Verhofstadt, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, also called the deal "highly problematic."

Belgien EU Europaparlament Guy Verhofstadt

Verhofstadt said the deal gave Erdogan 'the keys to the gates of Europe'

He said the agreement meant that Turkey had too much control over who was classed as a refugee and thus allowed to enter the EU. A Kurd from Iraq, for example, could be denied access to the EU, he said.

He also predicted that the deal would backfire, with migrants looking for other routes to the EU, such as through Italy, Albania, Malta or Bulgaria.

Parliamentarians also warned about giving too many concessions to Turkey and its increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under fire for recent government takeovers of opposition media and attacks on Kurds.

'The right answers'

Several conservative politicians, on the other hand, supported the plan.

The leader of the European People's Party group, Manfred Weber, said the deal gave the "right answers" to problems such as human smuggling and illegal migration from Turkey to Greece.

Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who represented the Netherlands' Presidency of the Council of the European Union, denied that EU values were being disregarded.

She said the plan was a welcome attempt to end the "stream of migrants" and to "break the business model" of the smugglers.

Watch video 03:12

Schulz: 'We will check EU-Turkey deal'

tj/jil (Reuters, epd, AFP)

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