Turkey slams EU financial offer for migrant crisis

  • 17/10/2015
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu (Reuters)
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu (Reuters)

By Fulya Ozerkan

Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioglu has slammed an EU offer of financial help to Turkey to ease the migrant crisis as unacceptable, saying an action plan agreed in Brussels was a draft and not final.

"There is a financial package proposed by the EU and we told them it is unacceptable," Sinirlioglu told reporters on Friday.

The EU and Turkey had struck late on Thursday what was described as a deal on an action plan aimed at stemming a massive influx of migrants into the bloc.

The minister complained that the EU had been seeking to give the funds out of the budget allocated for Turkey.

"It is out of the question for us to accept an understanding of aiding Syrian refugees from funds allocated for Turkey," he said.

The final offer had to be more than the "insignificant and meaningless amount that they proposed before," he said.

He refused to provide any exact amount Ankara required but said: "If (the EU) delivers 3 billion euros ($A4.66 billion) in the initial phase, it would be meaningful."

Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 600,000 migrants who have entered Europe this year, most of them making the short but dangerous sea crossing to the Greek islands, but some also coming by land.

The EU action plan also focuses on measures to combat people smuggling, notably reinforcing the Turkish coastguard patrolling and surveillance capacities.

Sinirlioglu vowed that Turkey would keep on combating human smugglers but said solutions must be produced to eradicate the reasons for illegal migration.

One of them, he said, is creating conditions that will keep refugees inside their own country.

This includes creating a safe zone inside Syria, he said, an idea that has only found a lukewarm solution from Turkey's western partners.

"Before anything else, this is a humanitarian need," he said.

Turkey is currently hosting close to 2.5 million refugees - 2.2 million of them Syrians fleeing the four-and-a-half year conflict in their country and as well as 300,000 Iraqis and 50,000 Afghans.

Only 266,000 Syrians stay in camps along the border and the rest live in Turkish towns, leading to social tensions.