Turkey rejects EU offer on refugee crisis

Foreign Minister rejects deal as “insignificant” given number of Syrians and other asylum seekers country is hosting.

Refugees and migrants arrive on the Greek island of Lesbos
Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 600,000 refugees who have entered Europe this year [EPA/Yannis Kolesidis]

A proposed financial package from the EU to Turkey to help ease the refugee crisis is “unacceptable” and “insignificant”, the country’s foreign minister has said.

Feridun Sinirlioglu slammed the offer on Friday, without giving specific details, saying the action plan agreed in Brussels a day earlier was a draft and not final.

 EU offers Turkey support in refugee crisis

“There is a financial package proposed by the EU and we told them it is unacceptable,” Sinirlioglu told reporters.

A day earlier, the EU and Turkey had struck what was described as a deal on an action plan aimed at stemming a massive influx of refugees into the bloc.

The minister complained that the EU had been seeking to give the funds out of the budget allocated for Turkey.

“It is out of the question for us to accept an understanding of aiding Syrian refugees from funds allocated for Turkey,” he said.

The final offer had to be more than the “insignificant and meaningless amount that they proposed before,” he said.

“Support desperate Syrians”

He refused to provide any exact amount Ankara required but said: “If (the EU) delivers 3bn euros ($3.4bn) in the initial phase, it would be meaningful.

“We have spent $8bn (on refugees) and our gross national product is around $800bn. Their (GNP) is $18trn.

“Three billion euro versus $18trn (GNP) is comic but it is much better than the $500m that they had delivered.”

Sinirlioglu rejected any “bargaining” with the EU, saying: “The aid to be delivered will not be for Turkey but to support Syrians in desperation.”

Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 600,000 refugees who have entered Europe this year, most of them making the short but dangerous sea crossing to the Greek islands, but some also coming by land.

2.5 million refugees

The EU action plan also focusses on measures to combat people smuggling, notably reinforcing the Turkish coastguard patrolling and surveillance capacities.

Sinirlioglu vowed that Turkey would keep on combatting human smugglers but said solutions must be produced to eradicate the reasons for illegal migration.


One of them, he said, is creating conditions that will keep refugees inside their own country.

This includes creating a safe zone inside Syria, he said, an idea that has only found a lukewarm solution from Turkey’s western partners.

“Before anything else, this is a humanitarian need,” he said. Turkey is currently hosting close to 2.5 million refugees – 2.2 million of them Syrians fleeing the four-and-a-half year conflict in their country and as well as 300,000 Iraqis and 50,000 Afghans.

Only 266,000 Syrians stay in camps along the border and the rest live in Turkish towns, leading to social tensions.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due in Istanbul for talks with Turkish leaders on Sunday.

However Sinirlioglu did not seem impressed by the sudden diplomatic traffic.

“The EU all of a sudden have rediscovered Turkey,” he commented. “Turkey is not a country to just be remembered at times of crisis and not a county to cooperate with only for tactical reasons.”

More than 3,000 refugees have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean this year.

Source: News Agencies