MEPs call for de-escalation of migration situation with Turkey

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Migrants living in Turkey are seen in front of Greece border.

The EU should continue its dialogue with Turkey to de-escalate the migration situation at the Greek-Turkish border, members of the European Parliament (MEP) said in a debate on Tuesday, according to a statement released on the parliament’s website.

Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have entered Greece via the Turkish border since a little more than a week ago, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broke a 2016 migration pact with the EU by opening Turkey’s frontiers with Europe. Under the deal, the EU promised to pay Turkey €6 billion in return for the country curbing migration flows.

MEPs debated the situation at the Greek-Turkish border and the EU’s common response to it with Ylva Johansson, the commissioner responsible for home affairs, and Nikolina Brnjac, representing the Croatian presidency, on Tuesday afternoon in Brussels.

“Over the last few days, we have seen the very dangerous attitude of the president of Turkey using vulnerable people in order to benefit himself and his politics,” said Spanish Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) member Iratxe García Pérez.

German European People’s Party( EPP) member Manfred Weber called for dialogue to start with Turkey to “de-escalate the situation at the Turkish-Greek border.”

Commissioner Johansson agreed, saying: “We must continue our dialogue. We must de-escalate the rhetoric and the increased tension. That involves finding a path forward with Turkey. The lines of communication with Turkey remain open and active.”

Some Parliament members said the EU should use the current situation to put a reform of the common rules on asylum back on the EU’s agenda. Others wanted to revise the deal with Turkey.

While acknowledging that “the current situation at our external borders is not acceptable,” European Council representative Brnjac said, “Our expectation is that Turkey will continue the full implementation of the 2016 joint statement.”

Johansson also emphasized that the current EU-Turkey agreement remains valid.

“The situation at the European external border towards Turkey is worrying, but I also must say that this is not 2015,” the commissioner said, referring to the year when more than 1 million asylum seekers and migrants arrived in Europe.

“We are much, much better prepared now to manage the situation because we know better what to expect,” she said, noting that the EU has reinforced its agencies such as Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office and that she sees more willingness to cooperate among member states.

In November 2017 the parliament adopted a resolution calling for an overhaul of the common rules of asylum in order to increase the EU’s preparedness for receiving migrants and asylum seekers and to ensure greater solidarity and a fairer sharing of responsibility among EU countries.

Last year MEPs also approved a new law to strengthen the European Border and Coast Guard to ensure better protection of the EU’s external borders.

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