EU looks to Turkey to ease migrant crisis

European Union leaders meet with their Turkish counterparts Monday to discuss efforts to slow the flow of migrants traveling to Europe as thousands of people remained stranded at the Greece-Macedonia border.

EU diplomats said ahead of Monday’s emergency meeting in Brussels that a draft EU agreement was set to declare the closure of the Balkan migration route.

Countries from Macedonia on north have shut their borders, preventing people mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq from traveling on toward Germany and Scandinavian nations.

The influx of nearly 1 million people arriving by sea in Greece since the beginning of 2015 has European leaders looking to persuade Turkey to both keep migrants from taking the dangerous route and also take back thousands who don’t qualify for EU asylum.

Turkey is hosting more than 2.7 million refugees from Syria alone, and, like European nations and other Syrian neighbors, has struggled with the burden of providing services.

The EU has offered several incentives to get Turkish authorities to crack down on migrant movements.  Some $3.3 billion will be made available for Syrian refugees.  Turkey’s long-coveted EU membership process is being sped up, as are moves to ease EU visa requirements.

NATO announced Sunday it is deploying ships to the Aegean Sea to help Greece and Turkey “tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.”

Britain said it is sending several ships as part of the NATO force.

“We’ve got to break the business model of the criminal smugglers and stop the desperate flow of people crammed into makeshift vessels from embarking on a fruitless and perilous journey,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement.

Those dangers were highlighted again Sunday with 25 migrants drowning while trying to reach Greece from Turkey.  The Turkish coast guard managed to pull 15 others to safety.

The International Organization for Migration says more than 400 people have died this year trying to reach Europe by sea.


(Archive photo: Photo: UNHCR/G. Gubaeva)