Turkey has yet to meet all conditions for visa waiver: EU Official

April 21, 2016 8:30 pm

The file photo shows flags of the and .

Turkey has fulfilled less than half of all criteria needed for its citizens to be granted visa-free travel to the under a controversial refugee deal with the 28-nation bloc, an EU official says.
Marta Cygan, a director in the European Commission’s migration and home affairs unit, told the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday that Ankara has currently satisfied 35 out of the 72 conditions in full or almost entirely.
The remarks came as Turkey has just 10 days before a deadline for it to meet the requirements so as to receive visa exemption.
“The Turkish authorities have definitely been accelerating the implementation of administrative and legal reforms allowing them to fulfill the requirements,” Cygan added.
Last month, Turkey and the EU sealed a controversial deal intended to stem the flow of refugees from Syria and other troubled countries to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
Under the agreement, the bloc will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with money, visa liberalization and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Critics, however, have accused Turkey of blackmailing Europe over the refugee crisis.
Visa-free travel for 79 million Turkish nationals is a contested issue as some EU states fear it would open doors to more migration to the bloc, which is already struggling with the biggest influx of refugees since World War II.
Ankara has threatened to walk away from the deal should it not get visa liberalization in June.

Women and children wait in line for food at a makeshift camp for refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, April 21, 2016. ©Reuters

Over a million people reached Europe last year, mainly arriving from Turkey to Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. However, arrivals on Greek islands have dropped sharply since the EU-Turkey agreement went into force on March 21.
Elsewhere in her remarks, Cygan called on Ankara to issue biometric passports, share more information on fraudulent documents used to travel to the EU and grant access to its labor market to non-Syrian refugees.
She further urged Turkey to reduce a backlog of 140,000 asylum applications and establish an independent body to monitor rights abuses by law enforcement and state authorities
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