The current tense climate must not be allowed to affect the EU-Turkey Statement on migration, which must remain in force, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday.
The Commissioner made the statement while visiting the Aegean island of Lesvos, accompanied by Malta’s Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela representing that European Council Chair and Greece’s Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, in order to inspect the progress that has been made one year into the agreement.
Avramopoulos stressed that the deal with Turkey must continue to be implemented in all its aspects. “Proof of the successful implementation of the Statement is the comparison with the situation that existed last year, when roughly 10,000 migrants a day crossed the Aegean instead of an average of 40-50 a day. The losses of life have declined sharply,” Avramopoulos said.
The Commissioner also underlined the need for a collective European response to the refugee crisis, which had shown that no one state or island could cope with such huge pressures alone. Avramopoulos said he was satisfied to see there was good progress in improving facilities at the island’s hotspots and the weaknesses revealed during the severe weather front earlier in the winter, which was made possible by European funding. He promised that the work will continue, while noting that the more vulnerable groups have already been transferred to the mainland.
He said that an increase in the closed reception centers will help speed up the returns of irregular migrants, while the Commission was continuing to cooperate with Greek authorities to speed up asylum procedures, with an increase in the number of European Asylum Office (EASO) experts on the islands.