All migrants and refugees arriving in Greece from this Sunday (20 March) will be returned to Turkey, under a controversial agreement hammered out over two days between the EU and Ankara at a summit in Brussels.
The press conferences have finished. Meanwhile, across town, Salah Abdeslam was injured and captured following a shootout with police in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels. Abdeslam is the main suspect behind the Paris shootings last November.
Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification Theo Francken tweeted, “We got him”.
We hebben hem.
— Theo Francken (@FranckenTheo) March 18, 2016
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and French President Francois Hollande are meeting now and are expected to give a press conference soon.
During her national briefing, the German Chancellor, Angela MerkeI, said that she’s under no illusions that what was agreed today will not run into setbacks. “There are enormous logistical challenges,” she said. The Chancellor issued a plea to migrants at Idomeni: They should leave the camp and seek proper shelter, meaning being registered by the Greek authorities and then relocated.
Merkel said she expects all EU member states to take part in the resettlement scheme with Turkey, except Hungary and Slovakia.
22-minute press conference with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, almost entirely taken up with questions about the Budget, the sugar tax and personal independence payment cuts for hte disabled. Cameron did spin the tampon tax victory as showing the UK was “better off in a reformed EU”, and that it was better to be “in the room” negotiating than “not in the room.”
He hailed the EU-Turkey deal as “busting the business model of the people smugglers” and – in response to a question about Nigel Farage – said Turkey’s full membership of the EU was “not remotely on the cards.”
The various press conferences – Juncker, Tusk, Merkel, Cameron, Rahoy et al – are expected soon.
The rest of the conclusions welcome progress on reform of the Dublin Regulation, and “future architecture of the EU’s migration policy.”
European leaders said they would remain “extremely vigilant” against possible new migration routes. “In this context, the fight against smugglers everywhere and by all appropriate means remains key.” There is a specific mention of Libya and backing for the Government of National Accord. Libya is particularly worrisome as there are 450,000 displaced persons in the wartorn country – and summer is coming. Summer is likely to bring more attempts to cross the Med.