EU to give Turkey more funding to extend migrant deal, while Syria offensive exacerbates crisis

Boats carrying refugees arrive in Lesbos in 2015 - library photo via eKathimerini

eKathimerini — Notwithstanding a rise in tensions between Brussels and Ankara – recently exacerbated by Turkey’s increasingly aggressive stance toward Greece and Cyprus – the European Commission will be approving an additional 3 billion euros in funding for Syrian refugees living in Turkey, EU officials said on Wednesday.

The fresh injection of funds will extend the European Union’s deal with Turkey for stemming the flow of asylum seekers into the bloc for an additional two years through 2019 after a contraction of 97 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year when the migration crisis started.

“From helping children attend school to giving vulnerable families access to essential services, the EU’s humanitarian aid for refugees in Turkey has delivered tangible results,” said Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides of the first package of 3 billion euros granted in 2016, adding that “1.2 million refugees have benefited from EU humanitarian support through our largest ever cash assistance program.”

An EU-Turkey summit scheduled for March 26 in the Bulgarian city of Varna is expected to “clarify many aspects of EU-Turkish cooperation,” adding that it is in the best interests of Turkey and Europe that the understanding pertaining to the migrant deal continues.

Earlier in the week Erdogan reacted furiously to the European Parliament’s motion calling for an end to Ankara’s military offensive in Syria’s Afrin enclave against a Kurdish militia. The motion cited concerns for the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Afrin city under siege by Turkish forces for almost two months.

“Don’t get your hopes up. We will only leave Afrin once our work is done,” Erdogan said. “Hey, European Parliament, what are you doing? You should be honest. There is nothing the European Parliament can tell us on this. Your statement will go in one ear and out the other. What burden have you shared with us in hosting 3.5 million Syrians?

“Turkey is no one’s whipping boy, it is a country that make its own decisions,” he added.