Erdogan threatens to scrap EU-Turkey migrant deal

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to tear up a key migrant deal with the European Union.

He said the EU could “forget about” Turkey re-admitting failed asylum seekers who had reached Europe via Turkey, a key part of the agreement.

Mr Erdogan also said the EU’s top court was leading a “crusade” against Islam.

His comments are the latest in a widening, increasingly acrimonious dispute with EU governments and institutions.

The Turkish government has been enraged by Germany, the Netherlands and other nations’ decisions to block its officials from holding political rallies in those countries.

It wants to win the votes of large Turkish populations living in Europe ahead of a key referendum that would expand Mr Erdogan’s executive powers.

The EU has criticised the referendum, saying it would concentrate too much power in the president’s hands.

The migrant deal, signed in March 2016, saw Turkey promised aid, visa-free travel for its nationals and accelerated EU membership talks in return for its help in reducing the flow of migrants crossing to Europe.

The number of migrants reaching Greece by sea dropped sharply after the deal was reached, and Turkey’s continued co-operation with the EU is regarded as crucial in managing the mass arrival of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

President Erdogan said the EU had broken its promise of granting visa-free travel to Turks.

“Now they say readmission. What readmission? Forget about it,” he said.

“You don’t let my minister into the Netherlands. You revoke the landing rights of my foreign minister. You prevent [us] holding meetings at the General Consulate building, which is my land. But after that you’d expect us to do this [re-admit migrants]. That’s not going to happen. ”

On Wednesday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey could immediately stop implementing the agreement if it wanted to, echoing previous threats made by the Turkish government

More than 1.2m first-time asylum seekers sought protection in the EU last year, Eurostat has announced, with Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis making up the largest groups.


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