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EU eyes extra funds for Turkey migration deal

June 23, 2021

Diplomats say the European Commission will propose handing an extra €3.5 billion to help Turkey host Syrian refugees over the next three years. A 2016 migration deal drew stinging criticism from human rights groups.

Refugess protest at the Turkish-Greek border
The EU wants to extend a migration deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to EuropeImage: Bülent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union plans to spend more than €5 billion ($5.9 billion) to help Turkey and other countries host Syrian refugees, diplomats said on Wednesday.

"It has been fully accepted that we have to reserve large sums of money from the EU budget,"  one EU ambassador told DW.

A European Commission plan will be presented to EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. The proposal would need approval from EU governments and the European Parliament before it can become official policy.

The proposal sets aside €3.5 billion for Turkey, with the remaining €2.2 billion earmarked for Jordan and Lebanon.

In total, the three nations are currently home to more than 5 million Syrian refugees, according to UN figures.

The EU proposal, briefed out to the media on Wednesday, comes two days after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a 2016 migration pact with Turkey was in need of "an update."

"I don’t want to put any numbers out into the world, but it is completely clear that it won’t work without money," he said in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt.

What do human rights groups say about the original deal?

EU governments signed the deal with Ankara five years ago in a bid to stem the flow of migrants to European shores.

It promised financial assistance for humanitarian projects working with refugees, in return for Turkish officials preventing them from making the dangerous journey to Europe.

Human rights organizations have long criticized the deal, accusing the 27-member bloc of outsourcing its asylum policy to the Turkish government.

In March, marking the agreement's five-year anniversary, Amnesty chided EU officials for striking a deal "based purely on political convenience with little regard for the inevitable human cost."

EU, Turkey trade accusations over migration pact

The fresh funding was initially promised to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during talks with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel in Ankara back in April.

The 2016 agreement said it would provide Turkey with up to €6 billion in health, education, food and infrastructure assistance.

Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Talks took place in April in Ankara, where the migration pact was raisedImage: Murat Kula/AA/picture alliance

It came after the 2015 migration crisis when more than one million refugees and migrants entered Europe at the height of the Syrian civil war.

Officials in Ankara said the amount was not enough to cope with the financial burden of welcoming so many migrants to Turkey, arguing the installment payouts were often hit by delays.

But the EU also accuses Turkey of failing to honor its commitments under the agreement, saying that they have allowed migrants to cross into Europe.

The bloc is also seeking similar pacts with Tunisia and Libya.

EU migrant crisis

jf/sms (AFP, Reuters)