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EU To Turkey: Please Slow The Flow Of Migrants


Tomorrow in Brussels, EU leaders resume talks with Turkey on cutting the flow of migrants to Europe. With more than 2-and-a-half million Syrians already sheltering in Turkey and thousands more anticipated in the next year, the EU wants to cut down on the flow of people to Greece and onward toward the heart of Europe. To find out more about how Turkey feels about all this, we're joined now by NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Hi Peter, thanks for joining us.


MARTIN: So we know that the EU wants hard limits on migrants. What does Turkey want from these talks?

KENYON: Well, they'd like a little more help dealing with all of these people. I mean, they look at around at 2.7 million Syrians here, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and others, then they look at these 28 countries in the EU with about a third as many migrants, and those countries are saying sorry, no vacancy, go back. Turks don't find that very realistic nor very in line with the humanitarian traditions Europe's always talking about.

MARTIN: Are there some developments today that make that point?

KENYON: Well, just today we're hearing Macedonia has declared several cities inside Syria and Iraq to be safe areas, including Damascus and Baghdad, so they won't accept any Syrians or Iraqis from their respective capitals. Human rights workers say that's pretty ludicrous, neither city is safe. Out on the Aegean Sea, meanwhile, NATO's beefing up its efforts, but at least 18 migrants drowned. Turkey says - Greece says they've rescued another 400, so the situation's still dire.

MARTIN: Is there any potential deal being talked about or are there any kind of outlines that you can share with us about the direction that the talks might go in?

KENYON: Yes. European Council President Donald Tusk was here in Turkey this week. He says there's a plan taking shape. It's not entirely clear, but it seems Europe might be asked to add some more aid on top of the $3.3 billion it promised Turkey back in November - which it has yet to pay, by the way. For its part, Turkey wouldn't object when Greece sends back Syrians and other migrants across Aegean Sea, and Greece has already started doing that. So the bottom line seems to be whatever they can do to end this dangerous dash to Europe.

MARTIN: Well, is the European position sort of that these migrants should just stay in Turkey, or do they really expect them to stay in these conflict areas? I mean, is their point of view realistic?

KENYON: It doesn't seem sustainable. I mean, this idea of cities inside Syria being safe is very hard to defend, and in Iraq as well. And Turkey is not an ideal place because it had unusual asylum rules. None of these Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans can seek asylum here. They can stay as guests. Beyond that, we're seeing bombs going off all the way from the border to Ankara and Istanbul. Things are getting tense, and it's just getting more dangerous all around.

MARTIN: Peter, before we let you go, we've focused a lot on Syrians, of course, but what other migrants - Iraqis, Afghans, North Africans?

KENYON: Well, exactly. I mean, this kind of resentment as they get shoved to the back of the line really has been popping up - well, since last summer even. You see fights in camps, and it's usually Afghans or Iraqis grumbling and venting their frustration because Syrians are now being given pride of place. And that gets to this really difficult question of who's a refugee fleeing danger, and who's an economic migrant just looking for a better life?

MARTIN: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Peter, thank you so much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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