EU readies direct funds for boosting Turkey’s coast guard - Associated Press

The European Union is preparing to pay Turkey tens of millions of euros to help bolster its coast guard, a senior European Union official told the Associated Press on Wednesday, after the number of migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey escalated since July.

Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a sharp rise in the number of migrant arrivals over the summer months on Lesbos and other islands in the eastern Aegean Sea, which have seen the largest influx since the peak of Europe’s refugee crisis in early 2016.

“We have prepared a set of measures amounting to some 50 million euros ($55 million),” AP quoted Maciej Popowski, the deputy director-general for EU enlargement policy, as saying. 

He said part of the money would help to “improve the capacities of the Turkish coast guard to perform search and rescue operations”.

The rest would be used to improve conditions in migrant detention centres and to help those people permitted to stay to better integrate into Turkish society, the official said.

Popowski said the money would be drawn from funds meant to prepare Turkey for EU accession and from a separate peace and stability fund.

The bloc last week announced that it would provide 663 million euros ($734 million) in humanitarian aid to continue projects implemented for 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. 

Turkey and the EU agreed on a deal in 2016 that aimed to cut the influx of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece. According to the deal, the EU promised 6 billion euro ($6.6 billion) in aid to Turkey to be provided in two instalments, which would be used for projects to help migrants.

The EU’s latest announcement comes after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly threatened to open Turkey’s borders and send Syrian refugees into EU countries over the bloc’s criticism of Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria.

Erdoğan has also accused the EU of failing to fulfil its promises of financial aid for refugees. 

The EU has cut a total of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in funds allocated to Turkey for pre-accession assistance since 2017.