MEPs assess how Ankara uses EU's €6bn for Syrian refugees
Already €380m of European money was allocated mainly in the areas of waste and water managementMaria Koleva , Brussels
MEPs from the EP committees on Foreign Affairs, Development and Civil Liberties joint forces on Wednesday to examine together with Commission's DG NEAR (Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations) and DG ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) the situation with Syrian refugees in Turkey.
On focus was how the country is managing the €6bn fund that EU assigned to it in order to take care of the Syrian refugees. All the money under this deal, the so-called EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, set up in 2015 to help the Turkish authorities in assisting refugees on their territory, should be disbursed in 2025 at the latest.
The budgetary commitment of the second round of the refugee facility will expire at the end of this year. Recent UNHCR data shows that out of the 5.6 million Syrian refugees in the world, Turkey hosts close to 3.7 million.
During the debate, MEPs clearly declared that there should be better guarantees and controls so that there are no involuntary returns from Turkey to Northern Syria, for which they have some signals. The aspect of whether Turkey is a 'safe country' was raised again and the deputies also reflected on the overall necessity for creation of common European asylum system. Some of them said that the threat by Turkey's President Erdogan to open the doors towards EU borders for 3.6 million migrants is blackmailing, and Europe should redirect the financial support to Syria and help people to start a new life coming to their home country, rather than to give so much money to Erdogan.
Maciej Popowski, Director General of DG NEAR, informed MEPs that the Commission is fully on track with the implementation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and 97% of the €6bn envelope has been programmed. We are there to help Syrians but also the hosting communities, he remarked.
Recently a set of measures have been prepared, amounting to some €50m that could be financed through the pre-accession assistance, and this is the instrument contributing to stability and peace and that would serve the purpose to improve the capacities of the Turkish Coast Guard to perform search and rescue operations.
The head of DG NEAR explained that the EU executive is putting emphasis increasingly on social economic support, which is mainly job creation for the Syrian families wherever they live, labour market integration, vocational training and skills training, and work will certainly continue on an education and health provision because it's badly needed. He added that the second new priority area is municipal infrastructure, where the EU has already allocated €380m, mainly in the area of waste and water management.
On MEPs concerns, Popowski replied that EU financing of the infrastructure to facilitate the repatriation or reintegration of Syrian refugees in north-east Syria is out of question. The EU will not provide stabilisation or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored or violated, he said.
On the efficiency of the spending, Michael Koehler, Deputy Director General of DG ECHO, said that the EU is implementing projects not by aiding the Turkish treasury but in favour of the refugees through international NGOs. He underlined that by contracting the International Federation of Red Cross they have also corresponded to the call of the ECA to be more efficient in implementation of assistance, which in this context means to give more money to the refugees and use less on the general administration part.