A Turkish official says five Greek islands would be “cleared” of migrants before a proposed deal with the European Union on the return of migrants to Turkey comes into effect.
The Foreign Ministry official told reporters Friday that the migrants on those islands would be taken to mainland Greece and resettled elsewhere. Turkey would start taking back any new migrants that arrive on the islands once the deal is in place, the official said. He did not name the islands.
The EU and Turkey this week agreed on the outlines of a deal that would send thousands of irregular migrants back to Turkey. In return, the EU would take an equal number of Syrian refugees who have found shelter in Turkey. The deal could be finalized at an EU summit next week.
The official said the aim of the deal is to discourage the illegal and dangerous migrant crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands and said Turkey was confident that these crossings would drop significantly days after the Turkish proposal comes into effect.
He added the EU would pay for the return of the migrants to Turkey.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.