Erdogan issues visa ultimatum to EU
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued an ultimatum to the EU regrding visa free travel to Turkish citizens in EU. Erdogan said, "no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament," until the visa free status is granted to Turkey. Erdogan also complained about slow payments of the €3 billion promised by the EU for the deal.
The refugee crisis facing Europe
The influx of migrants to Europe can be attributed to wars and other crises in the Middle-East, sub-Saharan Africa and a few other regions. The majority of the migrants arriving in Europe is from war-torn Syria, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. According to the International Organisation for Migration, over 1,011,700 migrants arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, while 34,900 arrived by land.
Europe and asylum applications
Germany received the maximum number of new asylum applications from migrants and refugees in 2015, which exceeded 476,000. However, German officials said that more than 1 million people had been counted by Germany's "EASY" computer system for counting and distributing migrants arriving in the country. Hungary ranked second with over 177,130 asylum applications, followed by Sweden (156,100), Austria (85,500), Italy (83,200), and France (70,600).
Migrant numbers soar
In 2014, only 280,000 migrants crossed into Europe. In 2015 however, according to data provided by the European Union's external border force, Frontex, more than 1,800,000 migrants crossed into Europe through different land and sea routes.
EU strikes migrant deal with Turkey
The European Union and Turkey jointly announced a deal to stem the flow of migrants and Syrian refugees into Europe. However, the idea at the heart of the "historic" deal - sending all "irregular migrants", i.e. ones without proper documents required for immigration purposes, back to Turkey from the Greek islands - was highly controversial. The feasibility of the agreement remains to be seen.
How will the EU-Turkey deal work?
The "hot spot" reception areas for refugees and migrants in Greece will be turned into detention centres. In order to separate regular migrants from "irregular" ones, tribunals have to be set up to ensure that every migrant has their case heard individually. Turkish police have to co-operate with Greek police for escorting migrants out of Greece if the migrants' claim for asylum is rejected.
Amnesty International, UNHCR not pleased
Although European leaders insisted that the EU-Turkey migrant deal was legally sound, the deal came under sharp criticism from human rights groups. Amnesty International accused the EU of "turning its back on a global refugee crisis, and willfully ignoring its international obligations". The United Nations refugee agency, i.e. the UNHCR, questioned the deal's legality, adding that the deal could further deteriorate the refugee situation.
EU-Turkey deal formally comes into effect
The EU-Turkey migrant deal formally came into effect. New migrant arrivals would be assessed individually by Greek authorities. For every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey (in the event their asylum claim is rejected), the European Union would resettle one Syrian already in Turkey. Efforts were underway by the EU to speed up the allocation of €3 billion worth of aid to Turkey.
Turkey demands visa-free travel from EU
Turkey warned the European Union (EU) that their recently struck migrant deal would collapse if the EU failed to provide visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by July 2016. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu emphasized that visa-free travel within Europe for Turkish citizens was "crucial" for Turkey. Turkey has to meet 72 conditions by May 4, 2016, in order to earn visa-free European travel access.
EU to grant Turkey visa free travel
Sources revealed that the European Commission is to grant Turkey conditional approval for visa-free travel within the EU's Schengen area. The move is part of a deal in which Turkey has agreed to take back migrants who have crossed the Aegean to Greece. The EU fears that if the visa deal with Turkey slides, then so will Turkey's commitment to tackle the migrant crisis.
Turkey threatens to flood EU with migrants
As the EU-Turkey deal comes to the brink of collapse, Turkey threatened to flood the EU wth migrants unless the latter grants visa free travel for Turkish citizens travelling to EU. EU officials put a halt on the proposal following Turkey's refusal to amend its terrorism laws. EU officials claim the laws are being used to crack down on political dissent and free speech.