German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European Union officials will travel to Turkey this weekend to try to smooth over tensions that have arisen since the two sides signed a deal last month to curb the number of migrants pouring into Europe.
Under the month-old, nearly $7 billion deal, migrants arriving on the shores of Greece would be returned to Turkey and in exchange, Turks would, among other things, be allowed to travel to Europe without acquiring a visa.
The deal, which went into effect three weeks ago, initially served to slow the number of migrants entering Greece illegally. But recently boats have started arriving in Greece with about 150 people per day, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Diplomatic relations have wavered after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warning that his country would break the deal if the EU did not keep up its end of the bargain by allowing visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
Merkel and other diplomats promised to present a visa recommendation next, but only if Turkey keeps up its side of the agreement and provides safe asylum for refugees.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the Turkish military of illegally shooting at Syrian refugees and sending them back to their war-torn country.
On Friday, Amnesty urged the European delegation not to “close their eyes to the catalogue of human rights abuses faced by refugees” in Turkey.
While in Turkey, Merkel and the delegation are scheduled to meet with refugees and visit a child protection center before holding a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and negotiating the deal further behind closed doors.
(Photo: Bundesregierung/Henning Schacht)