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Angela Merkel visits Turkey for talks on migrant deal

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A refugee looks through a wirefence during a protest demanding the opening of the borders at the border line between Greece and FYROM at the refugee camp of Idomeni, Greece, 07 April 2016.

Migrants stand behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp in southeastern Turkey while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to reassess a migrant deportation deal with Turkey.

Human rights groups have criticized the trip to what they call a “sanitized” refugee camp.

European Council head Donald Tusk, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and the German chancellor will visit a refugee camp at 1100 GMT in Gaziantep on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Human Right Watch acting director Judith Sunderland says instead of touring a “sanitized” refugee camp, the European Union leaders should focus on the tens of thousands of Syrians blocked at the border.

Merkel, who was going to Turkey on Saturday to discuss a deal on migration, has come under fire after Germany took in more than a million asylum seekers in 2015.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the number of irregular crossings by migrants to Greece has dropped considerably, which he says shows that the Turkish-EU migrant deal is working.

Verhofstadt said: “The Council has signed up to an impossible timetable on visa free travel for Turkish citizen”.

The U.N. refugee agency, rights groups and EU lawmakers have roundly criticized the EU-Turkey migrant deal over the legal and moral implications of expelling people from EU member Greece back to Turkey, a country that many consider unsafe on security and human rights grounds. Rights group Amnesty International urged the European delegation not to “close their eyes to the catalogue of human rights abuses faced by refugees” in Turkey. The country has also rejected claims that Turkish soldiers have on occasion shot at refugees trying to cross the border illegally.

On Syria, Merkel said she was in favor of the creation of “areas that are under special protection of the cease-fire, where as much safety as possible can be offered”.

” Pretending all is well for refugees in Turkey blindly denies shootings at refugees, returns of Syrians to Syria and more, all in the dogged determination to keep people out of Europe”, she said. “Then, they should go to the (Turkish) detention center for people who were abusively deported from Greece”. The German leader’s visit comes a little over a week after she granted Turkey’s request to allow prosecutors to investigate German comedian Jan Böhmermann over alleged insults targeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Critics have accused Merkel of kowtowing to Turkey because of the country’s important role in stopping the influx of migrants to Europe.

Can Dündar, one of two prominent Turkish journalists on trial for reporting that Turkey was supplying arms to Syrian rebels, said Merkel was betraying the principles of democracy and free speech.

“I can assure you that the fact we speak with each other so often – much more often than we used to – leads to our addressing all these issues”, she said.

U.S. President Barack Obama praised Merkel’s “political and moral leadership” in the migrant crisis, but also stressed the need to uphold human rights.

Migrants who refuse to apply for asylum are to be deported to Turkey, in accordance with a tit-for-tat agreement between the European Union (EU) and Turkey on the refugee and migration crisis.

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