Turkey’s president on Monday criticized delays in the payment of a 3 billion-euro ($3.3 billion) EU support package for refugees.
Under a deal signed in November, Turkey agreed to step up efforts to stem the flow of refugees to Europe while the EU promised a financial aid package for the near-3 million refugees living in Turkey, as well as the revival of Turkey’s bid to join the EU and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals.
“They pledged that they would give us 3 billion euros,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a union meeting to mark Women’s Day in Ankara. “It’s been four months and they have yet to give it.”
His comments came as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in Brussels to meet EU leaders about the refugee crisis.
“Our prime minister is in Brussels now,” Erdogan said. “Hopefully, he will return with this promised money.”
He added: “They say ‘Do not let refugees come’. Okay, but we are not the ones sending the refugees. They come by the sea as you see. Unfortunately, most of them die. Turkey has saved close to 100,000 refugees from the sea.”
According to Turkish officials, the country has spent $9 billion on refugees since the Syrian war started in March 2011, which has seen Turkey become host to the world’s largest refugee population. The UN’s refugee agency has granted $455 million to Turkey.
More than 850,000 refugees arrived in Greece from Turkey last year, most of them paying smugglers to ferry them to nearby Greek islands in often unseaworthy boats. According to the International Organization for Migration, 805 died last year.
So far this year, nearly 126,000 have crossed from Turkey to Greece, compared to 10,500 in the first three months of 2015, and 321 refugees have been listed as missing or dead on the Eastern Mediterranean route.