Bulgaria Seeks Right to Send Back Migrants to Turkey to Back EU’s Deal with Ankara
Bulgaria has tied its support for a final EU-Turkey agreement on curbing the migrant inflow into Europe to the opportunity to send illegal migrants back to Turkey, public TV broadcaster BNT reported on Friday.
Under a deal agreed in principle at an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on Monday Turkey has been promised financial assistance of up to EUR 6 B in return for helping curb the migrant inflow into Europe from the country's territory. The EU has also pledged to to introduce visa-free regime for Turkish citizens and speed up talks with Ankara on the country’s EU accession.
In return, Turkey will commit to readmitting all new irregular migrants who arrive on the Greek islands from its territory, and resettle, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian from Turkey to the EU member states.
Bulgaria, which has a land and maritime border with Turkey, insists that the readmission clause applied to irregular migrants crossing those borders as well, BNT quoted Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as saying a letter to the heads of the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council, outlining Bulgaria’s position ahead of the EU summit on migration on March 17-18.
At the meeting, EU leaders and Turkey are expected to finalize the tentative deal.
If the readmission clause only applies to irregular migrants arriving from Turkey on the Greek islands, there is risk of migrants opting for an alternative route through Bulgaria to avoid being sent back to Turkey, the letter reads, according to BNT.
The government in Sofia believes that the country, which is not a member of the Schengen zone, needs EU assistance as much as those EU member states which are part of the bloc’s free-travel area as Bulgaria’s border with Turkey is part of EU’s external border, BNT said, citing excerpts from the letter.
Bulgaria also insists on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens to take place only after the bilateral protocols on the implementation of the readmission agreement enter into force and tangible progress is achieved in readmission, BNT added.
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