Turkey has proposed to sign agreements with 14 countries for taking back irregular migrants, foreign media reports.
Those 14 countries have been “the source of irregular migration”, Reuters quoted Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic as saying at a news conference. Bilgic didn’t name the countries.
In November 2015, the EU agreed to a EUR 3 B deal with Ankara to help Turkey host refugees on its territory in return for preventing them from moving on to Europe.
The announcement made by the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman comes as the EU leaders prepare for key talks with Turkey on tackling migration on Monday and ahead of the EU’s migration summit on March 18-19. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is going to visit Greece on March 4, and European Council President Donald Tusk is set to meet Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on March 4 and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the following day to insist on Ankara’s deeper involvement in resoving the migration crisis in Europe.
Turkey has to take back migrants who had crossed the Mediterranean into Greece – the main channel of current migrant inflow into Europe - under a bilateral agreement signed in 2002. AFP quoted a Greek government source as saying on Tuesday that Greece was due to send back to Turkey 308 migrants – mainly Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians –under the deal.
“The number of migrants going to Greece from Turkey has significantly decreased as of February 2016. Our coast guard units and security forces are working hard to stop the irregular flow of migrants," Bilgic said, according to Reuters.
Bilgic also said that the Turkish authorities had prevented a total of 24,120 irregular migrants from leaving the country and had arrested 93 migrant smugglers between January 1 and February 15, according to newswire.