Turkey threatens to reignite European migrant crisis

'No European government will be able to survive for more than six months'

Thursday 01 August - Turkey has threatened to re-open the floodgates of mass migration to Europe unless Turkish nationals are granted visa-free travel to the European Union. The EU agreed to visa liberalization in a March 2016 EU-Turkey migrant deal in which Ankara pledged to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

European officials insist that while Turkey has reduced the flow of migrants, it has not yet met all of the requirements for visa liberalization. Moreover, EU foreign ministers on July 15 decided to halt high-level talks with Ankara as part of sanctions over Turkish oil and gas drilling off the coast of Cyprus.

In an interview with Turkish television channel TGRT Haber on July 22, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was backing out of the migrant deal because the EU had failed to honor its pledge to grant Turkish passport holders visa-free access to 26 European countries. 'We have suspended the readmission agreement,' he said. 'We will not wait at the EU's door.'

A day earlier, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu accused European countries of leaving Turkey alone to deal with the migration issue. In comments published by the state news agency Anadolu Agency, he warned: 'We are facing the biggest wave of migration in history'.

'If we open the floodgates, no European government will be able to survive for more than six months. We advise them not to try our patience.'

The migration deal, which entered into force on June 1, 2016, was hastily negotiated by European leaders desperate to gain control over a crisis in which more than one million migrants poured into Europe in 2015.

Under the agreement, the EU pledged to pay Turkey €6 billion ($6.7 billion), grant visa-free travel to Europe for Turkey's 82 million citizens, and restart accession talks for Turkey to join the EU. In exchange, Turkey agreed to stop the flow of migrants to Europe as well as to take back all migrants and refugees who illegally reach Greece from Turkey.

Turkey currently hosts an estimated 3.5 million migrants and refugees — mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans. Many of these people presumably would migrate to Europe if given the opportunity to do so.

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