Germany on Friday reaffirmed its commitments under the EU-Turkey refugee agreement and once again described the deal as a “success” in stemming irregular migration flows.
Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, deputy government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said while increase in new arrivals on the Greek islands has been a source of concern, the numbers were still lower compared to the period before the agreement.
“We think that the EU-Turkey agreement of 18 March 2016 has been a success, and it will continue to be pursued,” she stressed.
Last month, nearly 8,100 refugees and migrants arrived at Greek islands, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
At the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2015, more than 856,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece by sea. In August alone, there were nearly 108,000 arrivals.
In 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel had championed the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, with the hope of stopping the refugee influx, after nearly a million refugees had arrived in Germany.
The agreement has been successful in significantly reducing the number of crossings in the Aegean Sea, and preventing the loss of many lives.
But Ankara criticized its European partners for not fully implementing the 2016 agreement.
The EU had pledged €6 billion ($6.6 billion) aid to improve living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey. But only €2.22 billion were disbursed until June 2019.
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly criticized the EU for not sharing the refugee burden.
“We may have to let them cross into Europe to get support,” Erdogan told a meeting of provincial heads of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital Ankara.
The president said that Turkey aims to settle at least 1 million of the Syrians it took in since 2011 in a planned safe zone along its border with Syria.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.