A proposed EU-Turkey deal to swap Syrian refugees one-for-one will be only “temporary” and a longer-term resettlement arrangement will be necessary, the Netherlands warned Thursday (10 March).
European Union interior ministers meeting in Brussels were debating a proposal made by Ankara at a leaders’ summit on Monday (7 March) for a wide-ranging deal to curb the migration crisis.
Under the deal, the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee directly from camps in Turkey, in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from the overstretched Greek islands, a scheme both sides have hailed as “game-changing”.
But Dutch Minister for Migration Klaas Dijkhoff, whose country holds the six-month rotating presidency of the 28-nation EU, said that it was “not a permanent mechanism.”
“I think the one-on-one readmission and resettlement, it’s temporary,” Dijkhoff told reporters as he arrived for the meeting.
“I think when you have the one-on-one scheme, we will see over time that it won’t pay off to cross the sea in an illegal and very dangerous fashion. So that flow will stop,” he said.
“And then we will have to talk with Turkey about a more permanent resettlement scheme in a sense of burden sharing.”
Meanwhile, Austria’s Minister for the Interior, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, hit out at the deal with Muslim-majority Turkey, a long-term EU membership candidate.
“I really have to ask myself the question if we will throw our values overboard eventually,” she told reporters.
Earlier, she told Austrian ORF public radio she was “extremely critical” of the deal.
Under the one-for-one deal, the resettlement places would be taken from an existing EU plan to resettle 22,000 Syrians from camps in the Middle East and from 54,000 unallocated places from a slow-moving EU plan to redistribute refugees from Greece and Italy.
Only 3,000 people have been resettled so far from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and only around 800 have been relocated from Italy and Greece, according to EU figures.
Turkey’s Minister of European Union Affairs, Volkan Bozkir, said on Thursday that his country would take back “tens of thousands” of migrants, “not hundreds of thousands or millions”, and they would “not include the existing refugees on the Greek islands”.
“It would be more accurate to say the number of migrants to be returned to Turkey in the event of a readmission agreement with the EU will be thousands or tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands or millions,” he told the Anatolia News Agency.
In the latest tragedy, at least five migrants, including a baby, died as they made the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.
EU President Donald Tusk hopes to finalise details of the deal before leaders approve it at a summit on March 17-18.