The EU has said it will rehouse up to 1,500 child refugees living in Greek camps amid a standoff between Brussels and Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over his decision to open the border to migrants travelling to Europe, The Guardian reported.
The presidents of the European commission and council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, respectively, are to meet with Erdoğan on Monday evening, just over a week after he encouraged thousands of migrants and refugees to pass through Turkey into the EU.
With the conditions at border crossings and in Greek refugee camps degrading by the day, the German government said on Monday the EU was considering taking in between 1,000 and 1,500 unaccompanied children.
“A humanitarian solution is being negotiated at the European level for a coalition of the willing to take in these children,” it said.
Speaking at a press conference to mark her first 100 days in office, Von der Leyen confirmed that five EU member states had so far come forward to offer help. The countries helping are France, Portugal, Germany, Luxembourg and Finland.
“In the long term, we need a process to deal with unaccompanied minors, we need a systematic process,” she said.
Von der Leyen said the EU needed “to make sure that when unaccompanied minors end up in these camps that we have a mechanism to deal with them and a way to ensure they enjoy a safe future.”
The commission president said the talks with Erdoğan in Brussels would be the “beginning” of a process to see how much further the EU could financially support Turkey in dealing with migrants coming in from war-torn states.
The EU agreed in 2016 to provide Turkey with €6 billion in return for curbs on migration flows, but Erdoğan claims the true cost has been closer to €40 billion.
“The money [promised] has been paid or it has been contracted,” Von der Leyen said. “We are asking ourselves what the next step will be, but this is at the very beginning.”
She added: “The events at the Greek-Turkish border clearly point to politically motivated pressure on the EU’s external border. Finding a solution to this situation will require relieving the pressure that is put on the border.”
The crisis has unfolded on the borders between Turkey and its EU neighbors, Greece and Bulgaria, since Erdoğan announced last week that he would be “opening the doors” for refugees fleeing Idlib province, the final rebel stronghold in Syria.
Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized the EU’s lack of burden sharing, claiming Turkey can no longer cope with the numbers of people that are seeking asylum.