European Union countries approved yesterday (3 February) funds for Turkey to help refugees and migrants in the country in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them venture out towards Europe.
All 28 EU countries signed off on the proposal at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday after Italy dropped its opposition to the plan, which was first approved in November.
The bloc’s executive European Commission welcomed the decision.
“Turkey now hosts one of the world’s largest refugee communities and has committed to significantly reducing the numbers of migrants crossing into the EU,” said Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement.
“The Facility for Refugees in Turkey will go straight to the refugees, providing them with education, health and food. The improvement of living conditions and the offering of a positive perspective will allow refugees to stay closer to their homes.”
The fund is to be worth €3 billion. Brussels and Berlin hope it will help lower the number of arrivals in Europe after more than a million people reached the continent last year, with figures showing little signs of falling this year.
Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War Two has put strain on security and social systems in some EU states and became a top political priority for governments as it fuels support for anti-migration groups, nationalists and populists.
The EU would provide €1 billion from its own budget, twice as much as initially planned in November. The rest is to come from 28 governments, with Germany being the top contributor at €427.5 million in 2016.
Britain would follow with this year’s contribution of €327.6 million, France at €309.2 million, Italy at €224.9 million and Spain at €152.8 million, according to figures provided by the European Commission.