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EU Nears Deal With Turkey To Limit Migration


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. European leaders have finally agreed on what to do about thousands of migrants and refugees. These are people who've currently made it to Greece. And the plan is to send them partway back and deposit them in Turkey. This is being discussed at a summit of European leaders. And reporter Lauren Frayer is there. Hi, Lauren.


INSKEEP: We've heard something about this plan in recent days. But how's it supposed to work?

FRAYER: So the idea is to turn chaos into order, to turn Turkey into a giant refugee processing center. Thousands of people who've crossed the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece and are now stranded there will be sent back to Turkey. Turkey would essentially become a buffer for Europe, processing migrants and refugees. That's a big task for Turkey. And in exchange, it's making some big demands - billions of dollars in EU aid. It also wants Turkish citizens to be able to travel to Europe without visas, which they currently cannot do. And it wants to step up talks for Turkey to join the EU.

INSKEEP: So European leaders seem to like this. But what do advocates for the refugees think about the idea of shoving them back?

FRAYER: Human rights groups are virtually all against this. So is the United Nations. They say it's inhumane. Many people worry Turkey can't accommodate more migrants and refugees. There's a lot of criticism. But there's one thing the plan would do. Here's U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron telling us reporters that this system would go a long way toward...


U.K. DAVID CAMERON: Busting the business model of these people smugglers and so therefore breaking the link between getting in a boat and getting settlement in Europe. So we support the idea of turning back people from the Greek islands back to Turkey. That is a good idea.

INSKEEP: So he's arguing this just isn't for the stability of Europe. It's for the safety of migrants or refugees. What do refugees themselves think?

FRAYER: Steve, let me let you listen to what it sounds like outside the summit venue here - this massive office building in downtown Brussels.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

FRAYER: Now, that's the sound of Kurds protesting outside. The Kurds here object to concessions to Turkey. They say Turkey is not a safe country for refugees. People who work with refugees tell me they're worried. This plan only addresses resettlement of Syrians. What about all of those Afghans, Iraqis, Eritreans? Advocates for refugees also acknowledge there is anti-immigrant sentiment growing in parts of Europe. And so while this plan is un - imperfect, according to their human rights point of view, they're glad to see some policy pushed through before the tides turn further against these people streaming into Europe.

INSKEEP: Lauren, I know it's hard to generalize. But having traveled yourself among so many migrants and refugees, do you sense whether it matters - particularly to refugees - whether they end up in Turkey or in Germany, say?

FRAYER: Having made that dangerous sea journey across the Mediterranean to arrive on European soil and then be told you've got to go back and be reprocessed in another country, I can only imagine what a blow that would be emotionally to a lot of these people.

INSKEEP: That's reporter Lauren Frayer at a European summit in Brussels. Thanks very much.

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

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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