People in Europe are beginning to ask what ever happened to that $3.2 billion in “aid” money that was given to Turkey back in November that was intended to help the country stem the flow of refugees to Greece, and ultimately to Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the main advocate for the plan, coercing fellow European Union leaders to back agreement with Ankara. Included in the $3.2 billion offer to Turkey was a promise to speed up EU membership talks and further consideration to ease visa restrictions for Turkish citizens entering Europe.
Turkey’s end of the bargain was to clamp down on people smugglers and prevent more refugees from leaving the country.
Now, European officials are wondering what ever happened to the plan, and specifically, about Turkey’s end of the bargain.
In the month of December, on average, almost 3500 refugees arrived on Greek islands daily from Turkey and dozens of people drowned in the process. In a single day last Tuesday, 34 bodies washed up on Turkish beaches— including seven children.
Greece’s Immigration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said in a Greek TV interview that Turkey hasn’t done anything to stop human trafficking.
Former Dutch foreign minister and vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said “We are a long way from being satisfied,” when speaking about Turkey’s progress on stemming the flow of refugees out of the country.
Meanwhile in Turkey, coastal smugglers continue to work at a feverish pace to beat winter weather and sell more one-way trips to Greek islands. January’s numbers– approximately 2,000 new arrivals daily so far in 2016– are eleven times higher than they were a year ago.
And in Izmir, a factory was raided and more than 1,200 fake life jackets were confiscated, intended to be sold to refugees making the sea journey to Greece. Rather than helping people remain buoyant in the water, the vests were made of a material that becomes heavy when wet and would ultimately drag someone down if they did plunge into the water.