EU-Turkey deal on migrants: not perfect but most realistic tool to tackle crisis

The agreement to return migrants and asylum seekers from the Greek islands to Turkey, reached at the meeting of heads of state or government on 18 March in Brussels, was at the centre of a debate with Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday morning.

A broad majority of MEPs voiced concern over the migration agreement between the EU and Turkey and called on the Commission and Council to closely monitor the situation of human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey, as well as allegations that Syrian refugees are being pushed back to Syria by the Turkish authorities. They also questioned whether Turkey can be considered a “safe country” for refugees.

Many MEPs questioned whether the deal would work, arguing that people smugglers would simply find new routes. Some expressed concern over the lack of staff to deal with the influx of people in Greece as well as the conditions on the ground for asylum seekers. But others stressed that even though the deal is not perfect, it is the most realistic tool available to tackle the current situation.

MEPs also outlined their priorities for the upcoming reform of the “Dublin” system, which is used to determine which country is responsible for processing asylum applications. They stressed that member states must take responsibility for implementing the relocation and resettlement programmes and reiterated the need to ensure safe and legal ways to Europe.

Replay live statements by

Donald Tusk (Part I), President of the Council

Donald Tusk (Part II), President of the Council

Jean-Claude Juncker (Part I), President of the European Commission

Jean-Claude Juncker (Part II), President of the European Commission

Manfred Weber (EPP, DE)

Gianni Pittella (S&D, IT)

Syed Kamall (ECR, UK)

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE)

Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE)

Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE)

Nigel Farage (EFDD, UK)

Harald Vilimsky (ENF, DE)

Zoltán BALCZÓ (NI, HU)