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Erdogan to hold talks on migration with EU

China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-10 09:38
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Local people distribute food to migrants at a makeshift camp near Pazarkule border gate in Edirne, Turkey, on Sunday. Those migrants were waiting to resume their efforts to enter Europe. OZAN KOSE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tens of thousands of refugees attempt to enter Greece amid recent Idlib clashes

BRUSSELS-The European Union is considering taking in up to 1,500 migrant children who are currently housed in Greek camps, Germany said on Monday, as migration crisis talks were set to be held between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior EU officials in Brussels later.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers have been trying to break through the land border from Turkey for a week after Ankara announced it would no longer prevent people from trying to cross into the EU.

Turkey, which hosts around four million mostly Syrian refugees, has repeatedly railed against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing.

Erdogan called on Greece to "open the gates" to the migrants after Greek police used tear gas and water cannon in skirmishes with crowds at the border.

"I hope I will return from Belgium with a different outcome," he said in a speech in Istanbul on Sunday as he announced the meeting.

"Hey Greece! I appeal to you ... open the gates as well and be free of this burden," he said, adding: "Let them go to other European countries."

Early on Monday, Germany said the EU was considering taking in up to 1,500 migrant children who are currently housed in Greek camps.

"A humanitarian solution is being negotiated at the European level for a 'coalition of the willing' to take in these children," the government said in a statement after more than seven hours of talks between leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition.

Calls have grown in recent days for other European nations to take them in, as Greece came under intense pressure after Turkey stopped preventing migrants from leaving for EU territory.

Over the last week, migrants have repeatedly sought to storm the Greek border, with clashes erupting as Greek police used tear gas and water cannon to push them back.

Concern over the plight of the minors have grown as they either require urgent medical treatment or are unaccompanied by adults.

Croatia ready to help

On Sunday, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said his country is ready to accept some of the children living in refugee camps on Greek islands, national news agency Hina reported.

"We have always shown a very humanitarian approach, and children need special protection," Plenkovic said in Sinj, a southern town where he participated in the preelection rally of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union ahead of the March 15 party elections.

Erdogan was scheduled to meet European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 6 pm local time on Monday.

They will "discuss EU-Turkey matters, including migration, security, stability in the region and the crisis in Syria," Michel's spokesman said on Twitter.

In 2016, Turkey and the EU agreed a deal whereby Brussels would provide billions of dollars in aid in exchange for Turkish authorities curbing the flow of migrants.

But Ankara has repeatedly accused the bloc of not fulfilling promises that were made while Europe suffered its worst refugee crisis since the World War II. More than a million people fled to the continent in 2015.

Erdogan's top press aide has said one of the unmet conditions was that the EU would take in refugees from Turkey.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Michel met Erdogan in Ankara on Wednesday as Turkey demanded greater support over the conflict and migrants.

After the talks, Borrell promised an additional 170 million euros ($192 million) in aid for vulnerable groups in Syria.

Erdogan has felt extra pressure as nearly a million people in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib fled toward the Turkish border during the recent battles in Idlib between Russia-backed Syrian government forces and Turkey-supported rebels.

But the president and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed a cease-fire on Thursday after Turkey launched an offensive against Damascus following the deaths of 59 Turkish security personnel in attacks blamed on the Syrian government.

Agencies - Xinhua

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