One of the outcomes of yesterday’s EU-Turkey summit on the refugee crisis is the decision to close down the migrant route through the Balkans, currently the most popular choice among the migrants trying to reach Europe. European leaders have also asked Turkey’s Prime Minister Davutoglu to accept “large-scale” relocations of economic migrants from Greece, refugees’ main entry point to the old continent. Macedonia and the EU countries on the Western Balkans route have all virtually closed down their borders, which created a domino effect trapping refugees heading north to Germany and Scandinavia.
Since the beginning of this year, Greece itself has already received about 74,000 migrants. In response to the pressures that Greece is going through on behalf of the entire block, Brussels has promised €700 million in emergency aid for the country as well as other exposed countries to help them manage the flows of migrants at their borders. Last week, the EU leadership also announced its decision to restore the passport-free Schengen area by the end of this year, a move that will be accompanied by the formation of an EU coastguard by the end of the summer to help protect Europe’s external borders.
However, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Sunday (7 March) that thousands of migrants must be urgently relocated to other EU Member States. Although Brussels unveiled a plan to move 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece already last year, fewer than 700 have been actually relocated since then. Syrians fleeing the war in their home country are considered genuine refugees under international law. However, the success of the EU’s relocation plan largely depends on Turkey’s willingness to accept significant numbers of those migrants that do not qualify as refugees. The Turkish government, however, argues that it had already taken “important steps” to fulfil its part of the November agreement and it now awaits EU’s inputs.