Dutch plan to send Greek island refugees back to Turkey by ferry
The Netherlands has worked out a plan to send asylum seekers who arrive on the Greek islands by boat back to Turkey immediately and a team of international civil servants are already working out the details, the Volkskrant says on Thursday.
The plan was outlined by Labour party leader Diederik Samsom in an interview with the paper and in radio interviews. ‘The Aegean Sea has become a mass grave,’ Samsom told Radio 1. ‘Last year 3,700 people died. Millions of refugees are risking their lives to come here and we have to stop it.’
The Netherlands currently holds the rotating EU presidency and has made reducing the flow of refugees a priority.
Samsom said it is likely the EU will agree to the plan and that the first ferries would leave in March or April. Migrants then arriving on Lesbos, Chios or Kos would be taken back to Turkey, where they had come from.
Turkey, he said, is willing to accept them back on the condition that the EU allows in 150,000 to 200,000 refugees a year.
Talks have been ongoing with Turkey and it still has to amend a number of rules and improve its treatment of Syrian refugees, Samsom said. ‘It has to be a safe country,’ he said. ‘Much has improved in the past six months. Syrians can now work and go to school and they have more perspective. A few more changes and Turkey will be ready to make deals.’
A key group of some 10 EU countries must be willing to accept the refugees who are admitted to Europe. Those that don’t will have to contribute to the cost of the care, he said.