EU looks to finalize refugee deal with Turkey

European leaders are hoping to convince Davutoglu, center, to repatriate tens of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing into Greece beginning next week [Xinhua]

European leaders are hoping to convince Davutoglu, center, to repatriate tens of thousands of Syrian refugees crossing into Greece beginning next week [Xinhua]

European ministers meeting in Brussels are hoping to dangle a package of political concessions and financial compensation in return for Ankara taking back tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who cross into the continent from Turkish shores beginning March 21.

The agreement, which some reports say was signed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and is yet to be endorsed by the European Union, also says one refugee currently in a camp in Turkey will be resettled in Europe for each that is sent back.

The one-for-one deal with Turkey is designed to thwart smugglers and dissuade desperate refugees from making the dangerous journey across the Adriatic or Aegean to Greece.

The amount of financial assistance pledged to help Turkey with its refugee problem – some three million refugees fled there from Syria – will be doubled under the agreement to about $6.7 billion.

But the agreement caps off at 72,000 ‘repatriated’ refugees.

Turkey had been hoping to win support for its stalled, decades-old bid to join the EU. Long-time adversary Cyprus said it would be forced to block the resumption of EU-Turkey talks on joining the union unless Ankara opened its ports to Cypriot shipping.

Turkey has also asked for the EU to allow its citizens visa-free travel through the continent.

A number of EU leaders have on their Twitter accounts that they expect a deal to be finalized late Friday or early Saturday.

The latest negotiations come as the result of intense rounds of talks between European leaders on how to solve what they say is the worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war.

Since a summit in the Belgian capital Brussels on March 7, they have been looking at ways to stem the tide of refugees by closing the land routes they use to reach deep into Europe.

But they are also looking for solutions to deal with the hundreds of thousands who are on European lands.

Since January 1, more than 132,000 have crossed into Greece, and a majority of the refugees are Syrians.

Humanitarian aid workers say that the number of refugees at the Greek border has increased to 14,000 and is constantly growing after Macedonia closed off its border allowing access to only a handful of those fleeing Middle East wars.

Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary are also closing their border crossings.

European leaders have been pushing Athens to provide accommodation for up to 50,000 refugees.

Greek authorities said today that they will be able to provide shelter for 30,000 refugees.

UN agencies say there are now 45,000 refugees – including women and children – stranded in Greece.

In the meantime, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at EU leaders saying their dealing with the refugee crisis was shameful.

“At a time when Turkey is hosting three million (migrants), those who are unable to find space for a handful of refugees, who in the middle of Europe keep these innocents in shameful conditions, must first to look at themselves,” Erdogan said addressing the nation on television.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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