The European Union has allocated a multibillion-euro sum to Turkey to fund the welfare of refugees hosted by the country, after Ankara pledged to stop the flow of illegal migrants and refugees to Europe.
“Today marks the finalization of the contracting of €6 billion in EU support to refugees and host communities in Turkey,” said Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, the EU’s envoy to Ankara. The move has “put an important milestone behind us, the diplomat said, adding that the two sides will “now focus on making sure that the refugees and host communities will benefit from our projects.”
In 2015, at the peak of the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, Europe saw a million people arriving, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa. The following spring, the European Council reached an agreement with Turkey, which hosts about 3.6 million refugees from Syria.
Ankara was to accept the return of migrants arriving in Greece, and, in return, was promised €6 billion ($6.79 billion) to accommodate migrants, as well as visa-free travel in the EU for Turks.
However, the Turkish government has long accused EU leaders of failing to keep their promises, and, in March this year, Ankara said it would no longer stop refugees heading to Europe.
The EU funds will not be paid directly to the Turkish government, as they have already been earmarked for social projects inside Turkey, including supporting refugees’ access to health services and improving their living conditions.
In recent months, relations between the EU and Turkey have deteriorated, mostly over Ankara’s energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and the consequent rows with Greece and Cyprus.
Last week, a European Council summit announced it planned more sanctions against Ankara, adding that the EU was nonetheless “prepared to continue providing financial assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey.”
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