The Latest: Turkey says deal with EU has humanitarian factor

AP News
Posted: Mar 15, 2016 4:09 PM
The Latest: Turkey says deal with EU has humanitarian factor

VIENNA (AP) — The latest developments on the mass migration into Europe (all times local):

9 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister says a proposed deal with the European Union has a "humanitarian dimension" that aims to curb, and eventually prevent, the loss of more lives in the Aegean Sea.

Speaking after a meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday, Ahmet Davutoglu said the deal would also prevent Turkey from becoming a transit country for irregular migration.

He said Turkey wasn't engaged in any kind of bargaining with the EU over the amount of money the country would receive to help improve the conditions of Syrian refugees.

Davutoglu said: "We never saw this issue as a financial issue. This is a humanitarian issue."

Tusk reiterated that more work needed to be done on the deal to make it acceptable to all 28 EU nations and to Turkey during a summit later this week.


6:15 p.m.

Romanian authorities say they need to adopt urgent measures to handle possible mass migration.

The huge influx of migrants to Europe has largely bypassed Romania, which is a member of the European Union but not the passport-free Schengen zone. Still, authorities believe that Romania may become a new route for some migrants due to border closures elsewhere.

President Klaus Iohannis chaired a five-hour meeting of the country's top defense body on Tuesday where officials discussed migration and instability in the Mideast and North Africa.

The president's office said Romania should reach out to other countries to figure out how to manage migration and integrate refugees.


4:45 p.m.

Refugees who bypassed a border fence to enter Macedonia say Macedonian forces beat and gave them electric shocks before driving them back to Greece.

Syrian Molham al-Masri, 21, says he was among the hundreds of people from the congested Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek side of the border who entered Macedonia after walking through the countryside on Monday.

He said Tuesday that after entering Macedonia, his group was surrounded by Macedonian soldiers, who attacked them.

He tells the Associated Press "they hit me with a baton ... others were hit with Tasers."

Al-Masri said the Macedonian army then forced them into a military vehicle, took them back to the Greek border and smashed through the border fence before sending them back to Greece.


3:10 p.m.

European Union leaders will boost support to Greece so that thousands of migrants can be sent from there back to Turkey under a planned deal being thrashed out with Ankara.

In a draft text prepared for their summit, seen Tuesday by The Associated Press, EU leaders promise to use "all means to support the capacity of Greece for the return of irregular migrants to Turkey."

The agreement with Turkey is likely to be sealed by Friday. Under it, migrants who do not apply for asylum in Greece or whose application is "inadmissible" will be sent back to Turkey. For every migrant returned, the EU will accept one Syrian refugee from Turkey.

Rights groups fear the plan breaks international law. The U.N. refugee agency has also highlighted flaws in Turkey's asylum system.


2:55 p.m.

Angelina Jolie, the actress and special envoy for the U.N.'s refugee agency, says the international community must address the root causes of the global refugee crisis.

Speaking in the rain in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Jolie says "we cannot manage the world through aid relief in the place of diplomacy and political solutions."

Half of Syria's prewar population of 23 million has been displaced, with around 5 million having fled their homeland, mainly to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Lebanon alone hosts well over a million Syrian refugees, who now account for nearly a fifth of its population.

Jolie says "for all the focus on the refugee situation in Europe at this time, the greatest pressure is still being felt in the Middle East and North Africa."


2:45 p.m.

Albania has asked for Italy's help to prepare for a possible influx of refugees.

Albania has not been on the main Balkan migrant transit route so far, but Macedonia and Serbia have closed their borders with Greece, which could prompt refugees to seek other routes into Western Europe.

Albanian Interior Minister Saimir Tahiri says Tirana has asked for help because it cannot cope with any influx of migrants without assistance.

The bilateral deal, expected to be concluded next week when his Italian counterpart Angelino Alfano comes to Tirana, will offer equipment and personnel to register refugees and monitor land and sea borders.


1:30 p.m.

Hungary's prime minister says leaders in Brussels are to blame for the influx of migrants and accused them of trying to create a United States of Europe which would swallow up nation states.

Viktor Orban said Tuesday during commemorations of Hungary's 1848 revolution against Austria's Habsburgs that "the time has come to ring the alarm bells and gather allies" to reject the Brussels scheme.

Orban, who staunchly opposes taking in Muslims, says Europe is not free because "the truth is not allowed to be said." For example, he says that people arriving are not refugees but a mass migration threatening the continent.

Orban, speaking under a steady rainfall, said that while earlier "opponents of freedom" like the Soviet system resorted to prisons, camps and tanks to impose their will, "today the muzzle flashes of the international press, stigmatization, threats and extortion are sufficient."


12:35 p.m.

Cyprus' president says he won't agree to lifting a veto on Turkey's EU membership talks unless it recognizes Cyprus as a state.

Speaking Tuesday after talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk, Nicos Anastasiades said unblocking Turkey's path to EU membership at this time would also undermine ongoing talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically divided country.

Anastasiades said it's "unwarranted, counterproductive and not to mention unacceptable" to shift the burden of Europe's massive migration crisis to Cyprus.

Turkey has demanded that Cyprus lifts its veto on five of 35 policy areas in its EU accession talks in order to agree to a deal with the European Union to take back thousands of migrants.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming at union with Greece.


12:25 p.m.

The European Union's president says more work needs to be done on a tentative deal with Turkey so all 28 nations can sign off on it during a two-day summit on migration starting Thursday.

EU President Donald Tusk said in Nicosia that last week's outline deal "still needs to be rebalanced so as to be accepted by all 28 member states and the EU institutions."

He says more work is needed to make the agreement legally watertight and said that the EU must be able to ensure individual assessments in Greece for the decision to return migrants to Turkey. He added that there must also be legal guarantees so that legitimate refugees receive appropriate protection in Turkey.

He also said that Turkey must make sure that no other smuggling routes are set up toward places like EU member state Bulgaria.


11:25 a.m.

Austria's chancellor is urging his German counterpart to follow his country's example and set a limit on the number of asylum seekers Berlin is prepared to accept.

The appeal from Werner Faymann appears aimed at increasing pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of Thursday's EU refugee summit.

In an interview published Tuesday by the Kurier newspaper, Faymann says that "Germany too needs a point of reference," and urged Merkel "to say clearly and openly" that there cannot be uncontrolled migration into Europe.

Austria capped the number of asylum-seekers it will accept this year at 37,500 after nearly 90,000 applied for that status in 2015.


11 a.m.

Macedonian authorities said Tuesday they have sent back hundreds of refugees and migrants to Greece, a day after they bypassed a fence at a closed section of the border in a mass push to continue their journey north to Europe's prosperous heartland — a move Greece blamed on "criminal misinformation" potentially spread by volunteers working with migrants.

Interior ministry spokesman Toni Angelovski told The Associated Press that the migrants "have been returned to Greece."

About 700 people pushed their way into Macedonia Monday through an unguarded section of the border, frustrated at being stuck for weeks in a waterlogged tent city outside the closed crossing of Idomeni. More than 1,000 men, women and children are believed to have entered Macedonia after walking about 5 kilometers (3 miles) across country, and fording a swollen stream near the Greek village of Hamilo.