Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “open the gates” to Europe for Syrian refugees, unless a safe zone is established in Northern Syria. He also complained over disproportionate spending and insufficient support from Europe to Turkey. The German Ministry of Interior at the same time calls on Greece to step up repatriations to Turkey and do more to stop “illegal” crossings from Turkey to Greece.

According to Turkish media, Erdogan warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Turkey would be unable to deal with refugees from the fighting around Idlib in Northwestern Syria, and stated that Turkey has already spend 40 billion USD while the support from Europe was limited to 3.3 billion USD. According to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Mass insurances have been made that Europe is “honoring its parts of the EU-Turkey deal, and we have to assume Turkey is too.”

A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Interior under the controversial Horst Seehofer stated that: “We urgently need to make progress in small repatriations to Turkey, to improve the deteriorating conditions at certain hot spots on the islands.” In his response to Erdogan the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis states that Turkey: “cannot threaten Europe and Greece on the question of refugees to try and obtain more money…” Since the EU Turkey statement was agreed in March 2016, 1904 Syrians arriving to Europe from Turkey have been returned, while 24,348 have been settled in EU countries.

Meanwhile the conditions in the Greek hot spots hosting continues to deteriorate and on Wednesday the governor of the reception and identification center in Moria, Lesvos, resigned at a time where the center was holding 10,000 people, four times its capacity.

Turkey is the number one host country for refugees in the world and currently hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and the pressure for their return is increasing.


Photo: (CC) EU Parliament, February 2016

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.