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Davutoglu, Merkel visit refugees in Turkey

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey’s southeastern province Gaziantep near Syria border is aimed to shore up a recent EU-Turkey migrants deal, according to experts.

Tusk said that since the March agreement between the European Union and Turkey “we have seen a sharp reduction of the illegal migration flow across the Aegean Sea”. Turkish border guards have reportedly shot at Syrian refugees trying to cross the border.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and the European leaders later inaugurated a center for families and children in the city.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu greeted Merkel at Gaziantep Airport along with deputy prime ministers Yalçın Akdoğan and Mehmet Şimşek, Interior Minister Efkan Ala, Gaziantep Governor Ali Yerlikaya, Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin and other officials.

Referring to the EU-funded humanitarian projects for refugees who escaped from civil war in neighboring Syria, she said: “There, we are having first projects for the refugees and we would like to listen to them about their needs”.

Despite insisting that it has an open-door policy for Syrian refugees, Turkey in the past few months has blocked several thousand refugees who were fleeing northern Syria at the border, providing aid to them at displaced persons camps near the border instead.

A banner proclaiming Turkey as “the world’s largest refugee-hosting country” was on display.

Security for the visit was high: the delegation arrived at the camp on a coach with snipers on the roof.

After their visit to the migrant camp the two sides will discuss aspects of the deal such as the more than 6 billion euros promised to Turkey to host the refugees and the offer of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.

The success of the deal, which has sharply reduced the number of people crossing from Turkey to Greece, was also called into question, with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) saying the numbers were “once again ticking up”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel championed the accord.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama also weighed in on the issue in comments to German daily Bild that were published Saturday.

“In their desperation to seal their borders, European Union leaders have willfully ignored the simplest of facts: Turkey is not a safe country for Syrian refugees and is getting less safe by the day”, said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia.

Serkan Demirtas, an Ankara-based expert on EU-Turkey relations, said there are huge discrepancies between Ankara and Brussels on the number of benchmarks Turkey have so far satisfied. “As the agreement is implemented, it will be essential that migrants are treated properly and that human rights are upheld”.

Sunderland says “that should make them rethink the flawed EU-Turkey deal”.

Thomas Cummings

The author Thomas Cummings

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