Turkey detains 1,300 migrants after $3.2 billion EU deal

Turkey detains 1,300 migrants after $3.2 billion EU deal
Turkish authorities rounded up asylum seekers, economic migrants and refugees on Monday, just hours after agreeing to a deal worth billions with the European Union to stop the migration flow.
3 min read
01 December, 2015
The EU pledged to give Turkey's Davutoglu (L) $3.2 billion in aid [Getty]

Turkey on Monday detained 1,300 would-be migrants seeking to head to Europe from its Aegean coast, in a major swoop just hours after agreeing a deal with the European Union to stop the migration flow, the Dogan news agency reported.

In a operation staring before dawn, a 250-strong police team raided eight locations on the coast around the resort town of Ayvacik, the report said.

Some 850 people were initially detained, with the number rising to 1,300 later in the day.

Three suspected people traffickers were arrested, while four boats and six motors were seized, it added.

Amnesty International called the incident a "stain on the EU's conscience".

"Reports of Turkey rounding up and detaining over a thousand refugees in the west of the country are alarming but not surprising," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's Turkey researcher.

"Ever since September, we have seen the Turkish authorities detaining scores of refugees, often completely incommunicado, and forcibly returning them to neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

"This is as illegal as it is unconscionable. In the wake of this weekend's EU-Turkey migration talks, it's a stain on the EU's conscience too," Gardner added.

     This is as illegal as it is unconscionable... it's a stain on the EU's conscience
- Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International

Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many from Syria, have in the past month sought to escape to the European Union from the Turkish coast.

The European Union agreed on an aid deal to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey at a summit on Sunday.

The region around Ayvacik has become a hub for refugees seeking to go to EU member Greece, with the Greek island of Lesbos just a few kilometres to the south. But the short crossing remains a perilous undertaking in overcrowded, open boats.

'Unrealistic and unrealisable'

The EU-Turkey deal was struck at a summit in Brussels on Sunday, but some analysts say it is unlikely to significantly slow the flow of migrants to Europe or bring Ankara much closer to joining the bloc.

European Union leaders pledged to give Turkey three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees and kickstart its stalled membership bid in return for Ankara's cooperation in tackling the worst migrant crisis since World War II.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the first such summit in 11 years was an "historic day" and vowed that his country would keep its promises, in the face of scepticism from some countries in the 28-member EU.

"What the Europeans are asking of Turkey is unrealistic and unrealisable," said Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist from Istanbul's Bahcesehir University.

"They must be dreaming. Nobody can prevent these migrants from heading to Greece or Bulgaria because they have no future in their own country or in Turkey," Aktar said.

Turkey hosts more than two million refugees from the Syrian conflict and is the main launching point for migrants coming to Europe, via Greece.

EU president Donald Tusk said 1.5 million people had illegally come to Europe this year.

Davutoglu conceded that Turkey's efforts were likely to end in failure even while promising to fulfil all the terms of the deal.

"I wish to say to you that 'yes, the number of the migrants will decline,' but we cannot say this because we don't know what will be going on in Syria," the premier told a press conference.