EU to grant Turkey visa-free travel under controversial migrant deal

The European Union is set to take a big step Wednesday toward ending visa requirements for Turkish citizens, as a widely criticized deal to get Turkey to stop migrants entering the EU gathers pace. The EU also said it will allow countries to extend border controls in the Schengen Area, which has been severely strained by the crisis and recent terror attacks. As part of the controversial deal to curb the influx of migrants, Ankara has demanded visa-free travel in exchange for taking back migrants who land in Greece. EU member states and the European Parliament must still approve the Turkey visa plan after it clears the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which is by no means a foregone conclusion, as many countries have concerns over human rights in Turkey.

The EU-Turkey deal can only be acceptable if standards and legality are respected. We cannot outsource our asylum and migration policy to Turkey.

Guy Verhofstadt, head of the EU’s liberal ALDE bloc

Some lawmakers are perplexed at how Ankara has been able to make so much progress, fulfilling 64 of 72 conditions within just a few weeks. In exchange for visa-free travel, fast-tracked EU membership talks and billions of euros in aid, the EU will resettle one Syrian refugee from Turkey for every Syrian that Turkey takes back from the Greek islands, the aim being to discourage people from crossing to Greece in the first place. However, Germany and France have proposed a “snap-back mechanism,” under which it could halt visa-free travel if large numbers of Turks stay in the EU illegally or if there are a large number of asylum applications by Turks.