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Migrant crisis: Turkey PM says country is ‘not concentration camp’

world Updated: Oct 19, 2015 19:00 IST
Migrant crisis

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu talks during an interview.(REUTERS Photo)

Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday his country was “not a concentration camp” and would not host migrants permanently to appease the EU, which wants Turkey to stop the flow of people to Europe.

“We cannot accept an understanding like ‘give us the money and they stay in Turkey’. Turkey is not a concentration camp,” Davutoglu said in a live television interview a day after talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel on the migrant crisis.

“I said this to Merkel too. No one should expect Turkey to turn into a concentration camp where all the refugees stay in,” he said.

The talks had however resulted in a “positive response” to the government’s request for visa liberalisation, he said.

And in exchange Davutoglu agreed that “illegal immigration should be properly kept under control, therefore we will set up joint mechanisms” to contain the historic flow of Syrians and others escaping conflict, persecution and poverty who use Turkey as a gateway to Europe.

“We spoke of three billion euros ($3.4 billion) as ‘fresh money’ but it is not a fixed sum. Our (financial) needs may increase,” he said.

Chancellor Merkel on Sunday had hailed as “very promising” progress on an EU-driven “action plan” after talks in Istanbul with Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Brussels last week offered Turkey financial help and an acceleration of its drive for EU membership among other sweeteners to persuade it to do more to tighten its border security.

Though Turkey initially poured cold water on the plan, describing it as nothing more than a draft, both Merkel and the Turkish leadership indicated that officials were making progress towards a deal on cooperation.

Visa-free travel?

Davutoglu insisted the European Union would have to implement its side of the deal before Turkey would play ball.

“In the past, the EU got what it wanted, but didn’t keep its promises. The visa liberalisation has to take force,” he said referring to Turkey’s request for visa-free access for Turks to the EU’s Schengen zone.

“We demanded the abolishment of the Schengen visa (for Turks) and got a positive response. It will happen in July 2016, negotiations are continuing. Things will become clear at the start of the 2016,” he said.

His comments came as the migrant crisis intensified in Europe, with thousands of people streaming Monday into the Balkans, where tighter border controls caused bottlenecks and forced people to sleep in freezing temperatures.

Merkel -- who has won both praise and condemnation for her open-door policy towards Syrian refugees -- urged people to “stay away from those with hate in their hearts” as Germany braced for an anniversary rally of the xenophobic PEGIDA movement.

More than 630,000 people have landed on Europe’s shores so far this year, most of them making risky sea crossings from Turkey to Greece.