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European ministers visit Greece and Turkey following migration deal

Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders and five other European ministers visited Greece and Turkey on 8, 9 and 10 April to discuss the refugee problem. The visit was an initiative of the Netherlands EU Presidency.

Koenders

Minister Koenders

Assessing the implementation of the migration deal

On Friday evening, Mr Koenders and his French, Slovakian, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese colleagues spoke with the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. On Saturday there were various meetings with other Greek ministers in Athens. ‘Greece is facing a daunting challenge as a result of the large influx of migrants. We need to show our solidarity with them,’ said Mr Koenders prior to the visit. Now that the migration deal is being implemented, the ministers were keen to visit Greece and Turkey to see for themselves how it was progressing and speak to the relevant parties.

Visit to registration centre

The ministers also visited a registration centre for refugees outside Athens, to see how refugees are being accommodated and registered. They spoke with civil society organisations that are helping refugees. ‘A number of important first steps have been taken. We also want to hear from the organisations first hand what problems they’re encountering and how we can help resolve them,’ Mr Koenders said. The ministers were also briefed by Frontex (the European border control agency), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Turkey’s role in taking in refugees

After visiting Greece, the ministers travelled on to Turkey, where they met with the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Saturday evening. In Istanbul they spoke about the millions of refugees currently in Turkey and the broader regional situation, including the war in Syria and the fight against ISIS. On Sunday morning the ministers met with a number of organisations, including UNHCR and Amnesty International.