The European Commission announced yesterday (20 April) that there had been good progress regarding the operationalization of the EU-Turkey Agreement. The EU Executive, however, said that more effort is needed to consolidate the position and continue the return and resettlement operations. In mid-March, EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed to put an end to the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and instead replace it with legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union.
Thanks to the new measures, there has been a sharp decrease in a number of people irregularly crossing the Aegean Sean from Turkey to Greece. Moreover, the Commission says that the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan of November 2015 has helped to communicate that turning to smugglers is a wrong choice to make. The resettlement of migrants from the EU to Turkey started on 4 April and so far 325 irregular migrants that had arrived to Greece via Turkey were returned. Both Greece and Turkey have made a number of legal changes to make sure that the deal fully respects EU and international law. Moreover, Greece has introduced an accelerated procedure for the processing of all stages of asylum applications on the islands from the initial interviews to the appeals.
The EU has also released additional €1 billion to help cover programming and project implementation costs under the Facility of Refugees. This comes on top of the contributions made by 16 EU Member States, covering €1.61 billion out of the €2 billion pledged for 2016-2017. The first contracts under the Facility, worth €77million, were signed on 4 March and the first payments were made on 18 March.