Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement: First returns and resettlements under the 18 March Agreement

Today the first resettlements from Turkey and returns from Greece are taking place in the context of the 18 March EU-Turkey Agreement. With this Agreement, EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and replace it instead with legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union. The aim is to replace disorganised, chaotic, irregular and dangerous migratory flows by organised, safe and legal pathways to Europe for those entitled to international protection in line with EU and international law.  The agreement took effect as of 20 March, and 4 April was set as the target date for the start of returns of people arriving in Greece after 20 March and of the first resettlements. Today thus saw the start of two processes: returns from the Greek islands to Turkey to make clear that this is a dangerous route and the wrong route; and the first resettlements of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Europe, to underline that this is how Europe lives up to its responsibilities as a continent committed to the Geneva Convention and to the fundamental right to asylum. Greece and Turkey are the two governments in charge of implementing the agreement. It is their authorities who have to do the legal and operational work. The Commission is assisting Greece with advice, expertise and support from the EU budget and by coordinating – via the EU Coordinator Maarten Verwey – the support which is being provided by other Member States and EU agencies. A memo is available online.