BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (AFP) – The European Union yesterday unlocked a further three billion euros ($3.7 billion) for refugees in Turkey, the second tranche of a controversial 2016 deal to curb the flow of migrants coming to Europe.
“The Commission is today launching the mobilisation for the second three billion euro tranche of the facility for refugees in Turkey,” said the European Commission, the EU executive.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the commission had fully contracted the first three billion euros under the deal sealed two years ago at the height of Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
“Now the union and its member states need to fund the second tranche,” Mr Avramopolous told a press conference in Brussels yesterday.
“It makes sense we follow the same division as before, with the EU budget mobilising one billion euros and the member states delivering the other two billion euros,” he said.
Under the deal, all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands must be returned to Turkey.
These include both refugees fleeing conflict and persecution as well as those migrants leaving for economic reasons.
In addition to providing billions in funds in return, the EU agreed other concessions to Turkey such as acceleration of plans to bring in visa-free travel for its nationals and boost negotiations for its membership of the bloc.
But these have stalled due to Brussels charges that Ankara has committed massive human rights violations in the wake of a failed coup in July 2016.
Humanitarian groups slammed the deal for deterring people from coming who under international law must be granted asylum as so many were fleeing war-torn countries like Syria.