EU leaders to press Turkey, back Greece at migrant summit
BRUSSELS – European Union leaders arrived in Brussels Monday to press Turkey to do more to stop migrants from entering Europe and to shore up support for Greece, where thousands of people are stranded.
The leaders are expected to declare the main Balkan migrant route closed, after Macedonia – backed by Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary – limited border crossings to a trickle.
Ahead of the summit in Brussels, some 14,000 people were camped by Greece’s border with Macedonia hoping desperately to be allowed to cross.
The leaders are set first to hold talks at 1130 GMT with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
A draft statement prepared for their talks says they will ensure “comprehensive, large scale and fast-track returns to Turkey of all irregular migrants not in need of international protection.”
Arriving for a meeting with Davutoglu on the sidelines of the summit, Greece’s prime minister urged his EU partners to put long-agreed and long-delayed migrant plans into action.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters that “rules are for all, and everybody has to implement our common decisions.”
“If there are agreements that are not implemented there are not agreements at all,” he said.
EU leaders agreed in September to share 160,000 refugees arriving in Greece and Italy over two years. As of March 3 fewer than 700 people had been relocated to other European countries.
Human rights group Amnesty International hit out at the leaders for using Turkey as a buffer to stop migrants, calling the move “a dangerous and deliberate ploy to shirk their responsibilities to people fleeing war and persecution.”
Turkey is home to an estimated 2.75 million refugees, most from Syria, and Amnesty says many are living in appalling conditions.
“Europe has an absolute duty to protect refugees and must make the bold decision to fast-track significant, unconditional resettlement as a matter of urgency,” said the group’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, Gauri van Gulik.