New Plan for Migrants Draws Scorn as Germany’s Merkel Struggles for Unity

Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, March 17, 2016


The German chancellor has been hailed as a global humanitarian whose pledge of unlimited sanctuary became a beacon of hope for the desperate fleeing war in the Middle East. She has also been called Europe’s “decider,” the go-to person for managing everything from the Greek debt crisis to a newly belligerent Russia.

But as she races to strike a deal in Brussels by Friday aimed at containing Europe’s migrant crisis, Merkel is suddenly casting doubt on both of those assumptions.

She now finds herself as a principal advocate of an accord that, in exchange for cash and concessions to Turkey, would send back virtually all migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to find shelter in Europe. If reached, critics say, any deal would amount to an imperfect, immoral and potentially illegal solution that would corral refugees in Turkey, a nation that itself is plunging deeper into instability and violence.


A preliminary deal reached last week with Turkey–but with few details worked out–was hailed as a game changer after a year in which more than 1 million asylum-seekers landed on European shores. But late Thursday, Merkel and other EU leaders were still trying to agree among themselves on what, exactly, to offer before crunch-time talks with the Turks on Friday.


The agreement, if reached, would see Turkey willingly take back virtually all migrants trying to cross the Aegean into Greece–the entry point into Europe. {snip}


In return for keeping migrants on its shores, Turkey would get up to 6 billion euros. But Ankara is also seeking to win other concessions. They include visa-free travel for Turks–long opposed by France and others. It also wants to jump-start talks to join the EU, a notion that has sparked horror and vows to block the deal by Cyprus, an EU member and former target of a Turkish invasion.

The deal is also contingent on one big promise that Merkel and Co. may not be able to keep: That for every Syrian sent back to Turkey, Europe would agree to fly in and resettle another Syrian directly from refugee camps in Turkey.

Previous German-led attempts to create a “legal route” into Europe have failed, as other member states have refused to live up to their part of the bargain. Hungary, one of the nations refusing to take in any migrants, again insisted Thursday that it would not change its policy.


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