EU: Turkey must uphold migrant deal

With reports emerging that Turkey is set to allow refugees to cross into Europe, the European Union says it expects Ankara to uphold commitments on controlling migrant flows. 

“I would like to stress that there was no official announcement from the Turkish side about any changes in their asylum seeker, refugee or migrant policy,” a spokesman for the EU’s executive told a news briefing on Friday. 

The comments at a press conference came after a Turkish official told Reuters that police, coastguard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down on refugees’ land and sea crossings towards Europe. 

“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

“All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union.”

However, the spokesman for the EU’s executive, Turkey has not officially announced a change to its policy on refugees.

Turkey has committed to ending irregular migration flows from Turkey to the EU and ensure improved reception conditions for refugees in Turkey, in exchange for support from the bloc. 

“From our point of view the EU-Turkey statement … still stands and we expect Turkey to uphold its commitments stemming from this statement. The Turkish authorities officially confirmed there is no change in the official policy … we expect that it will continue to stay so.”

The Turkish official’s comments that Turkey’s borders would be opened followed the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region.

Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to open the gates for migrants to travel to Europe. Doing so would reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016. 

The airstrike on Thursday raised Turkey’s military death toll to 54 so far in February in Idlib. The governor in Turkey’s border province said 32 other troops were wounded.

It was the highest death toll suffered by the Turkish military in a single attack since 1993 when the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants killed 33 troops in Turkey’s Bingol province.

Reuters, IPA

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