Turkey plans to leverage its millions of Syrian refugees for money and other concessions at a summit in Europe next week as Greece faces criticism for its implementation of the migrant deal signed with Ankara in March 2016.
A report in Germany’s Die Welt newspaper has cited unidentified EU officials claiming Greece has moved thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from its island camps to the mainland.
This meant they were not being returned to Turkey in significant numbers, as per the deal signed between the EU and Ankara. They also claimed only a fraction of arrivals since March 2016 had been sent back to Turkey.
Die Welt’s report cited the officials saying Greece was therefore undermining the deal by giving the impression those who managed to reach the Greek islands would be assured of a place in Europe and not sent back.
Critics of the deal have accused both sides of using refugees and migrants as bargaining chips and Europe of using Turkey as a means of keeping desperate people from reaching the safety of the EU.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated his claim that the EU has not paid an estimated €3 billion ($3.7 billion) to Ankara as part of the agreement.
It is expected the Turkish leader will press for payment at an EU-Turkey summit in Varna, Bulgaria on Monday, March 26.
Speaking in Ankara on Monday Erdogan said: “We will tell them: ‘If you are going provide the financial assistance for refugees, then do so. If not, be honest with us. You are invited to visit all the refugee camps. Don’t keep delaying it; give us the money.'”
Erdogan will meet European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the meeting.