Bohuslav Sobotka, Miro Cera and Angela Merkel at European Council in Brussels on March 18, 2016 /

The EU and Turkey agreed that all new irregular migrants arriving in Greece will be returned to Turkey as from Sunday, March 20. But doubts about the implementation have been voiced since the plan will need huge financial and human investments on the ground.

After the agreement reached between the 28 EU leaders and Turkey, the plan to send back thousands of illegal migrants landing on Greek Islands will require a huge mobilization from members’ states to help Greece, which is already overwhelmed by roughly 8,000 refugees.

But Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, highlighted that this plan will need to respect all EU and international laws.

“We needed to ensure that each and every migrant arriving in Europe will be treated individually. In other words, that our agreement complies with all EU and international laws,” Tusk said.

“This includes the respect for the principle of non-refoulement and it excludes any kind of collective expulsions.”

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the agreement was “balanced,” adding that it was a historic day, showing  common faith between Turkey and the EU.

Necessary financial aid

During the press conference, the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker mentioned the necessary financial aid to Greece to help the country deal with border controls, registration and the returning of thousands of migrants to Turkey. (audio in French)

“We decided than an additional emergency aid of 30 million euros will be given to the Greek army, which is currently helping the refugees who are already in Greece,” Juncker said.

“And this brings the amount of EU emergency aid given to Greece, since last year, to 180 million euros.”

Juncker has appointed Maarten Verwey “to act as the EU coordinator to implement the EU-Turkey statement.” Verwey will lead a team already on the ground for months to help the Greek authorities cope with the migrant crisis.

According to a Commission statement, Verwey “will organise the work and coordinate the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece,  the member states, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the EU border control agency (Frontex).”

Needs are urgent regarding “case workers, interpreters, judges, return officers and security officers.”

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka already announced that the Czech Republic was willing to send up to 100 experts.

Moreover, Turkey and Greece agreed on the presence of Turkish officials on some Greek islands and Greek officials in Turkey.

François Hollande, the French President, congratulated this “bilateral arrangement” during his press conference and mentioned that this deal wasc “more a deal based on a question of means rather than a judicial one”.

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the deal could “cut the flow of migrants within three or four weeks.”

Rutte, Merkel, Tusk and Juncker at European Council in Brussels on March 18, 2016 /

Rutte, Merkel, Tusk and Juncker debating at European Council

Doubts about implementation

Gianni Pittella, the chair of the Social-Democrats in the European Parliament, “raised doubts and concerns regarding the complicated practical implementation involved and expects further extensive financial, logistic aid and expertise to be granted to Greece.”

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also pointed out that the way this plan would be implemented “is going to be crucial.”

In Greece, “reception conditions and its systems for assessing asylum claims and dealing with people accepted as refugees must be rapidly strengthened. This will be an enormous challenge needing urgent addressing,” the UNHCR stated.

The UN agency added that “assurances against refoulement, or forced return, must be in place. Reception and other arrangements need to be readied in Turkey before anyone is returned from Greece.”

Boyko Borissov entering European Council in Brussels on March 18, 2016 /

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov entering European Council

The chair of the Liberals in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, also warned that although this deal could help to decrease the influx of refugees, “smugglers will find new routes to Europe. That’s why our first priority should be to set up a European border and coast guard.”

The EU leaders also agreed to rapidly disburse the 3 billion euros already pledged in support for refugees in Turkey.

Moreover, they have committed to mobilise an additional 3 billion euros by 2018, but only once Ankara has come up with a list of concrete projects for refugees that require EU assistance.

Around 850,000 people came to Greece through the Aegean Sea in 2015, and more than 10,000 in less than two weeks recently since the EU-Turkey summit on March 7, according to the United Nations.

  • Author: Laeticia Markakis, Euranet Plus News Agency
  • Further image credits: (middle 1) Bohuslav Sobotka, Miro Cera and Angela Merkel at European Council in Brussels on March 18, 2016 / |  (middle 2) Rutte, Merkel, Tusk and Juncker at European Council in Brussels on March 18, 2016 / | (middle 3) Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov entering European Councilin Brussels on March 18, 2016 /

Euranet Plus News Agency listening tip

Euranet Plus News Agency viewing tip

Turkey’s President Erdoğan must see hypocrisy when Europe is at the table. Europe is begging Turkey for help with the migration crisis, speaking of values, but outsourcing its conscience to Turkey.