BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and Turkey plan to announce on Friday a major step forward in containing the refugee emergency with the return of tens of thousands of migrants back to Turkey.
As EU leaders and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu went into a scheduled final day of talks in Brussels, here are the main points of their tentative agreement, based on draft documents seen by the Associated Press and information provided by EU officials who declined to be named because the negotiations are in a sensitive phase.
— All "new irregular migrants" crossing from Turkey to Greece will be sent back. That is, people arriving after this deal is sealed who do not apply for asylum or whose applications are deemed inadmissible. The EU will pay the transport costs. Migrants already in Greece will be transferred from the Greek islands to reception centers on the mainland. Due to legal concerns and fears of mass deportation, emphasis is placed on people being sent back on an individual basis.
— For every Syrian among those returned to Turkey, one Syrian refugee already in Turkey will be resettled in Europe. Under this voluntary part of the plan, a total of 72,000 Syrians would be brought to Europe. There are no provisions relating to other nationalities. The U.N. refugee agency would supervise the resettlement process, with the participation of EU experts.
— Turkey will take all action necessary to stop new migrant sea or land routes to Europe opening up from its territory.
— As one of the sweeteners being offered to Turkey to take back the migrants, the process of easing visa rules in Europe for Turkish citizens will be speeded up, with the aim of lifting the requirements by the end of June. Turkey will commit urgently to take steps to meet all 72 benchmarks for this to happen.
— The EU will also speed up the disbursement of 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help Syrian refugees in Turkey. If that money is spent appropriately, the EU stands ready to provide up to 3 billion more euros, also to be used for Syrian refugees.
— The EU and Turkey will "prepare for the decision on the opening of new chapters" in Ankara's EU membership talks "as soon as possible." Countries hoping to join the EU must complete negotiations in 35 policy areas, or chapters. Turkey has completed one chapter in a decade of talks. One of the biggest problems is that Turkey does not recognize EU member Cyprus. The likelihood of a veto from Cyprus appears to have subsided.
— The EU will commit to work with Turkey on any "joint endeavor to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria," where most of the refugees are coming from. This is in response to a repeated demand from Turkey for EU support in setting up safe areas inside Syria.