Talks ongoing as EU mulls taking in child refugees

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Migration crisis talks were held between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and senior European Union (EU) officials in Brussels yesterday, as Germany said the bloc was considering taking in 1,500 child refugees.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers have been trying to break through the land border from Turkey for a week after Ankara announced it would no longer prevent people from trying to cross into the EU.

Turkey, which hosts around four million mostly Syrian refugees, has repeatedly railed against what it describes as unfair burden-sharing.

Erdogan called on Greece to “open the gates” to the migrants after Greek police used tear gas and water cannon in skirmishes with crowds at the border.

“I hope I will return from Belgium with different outcomes,” he said at a speech in Istanbul on Sunday as he announced the meeting.

Children play as migrants gather in a field in Edirne, near the Turkish-Greek border. PHOTO: AP

“Hey Greece! I appeal to you… open the gates as well and be free of this burden,” he said, adding: “Let them go to other European countries.”

Yesterday, Germany said the EU was considering taking in up to 1,500 migrant children who are currently housed in Greek camps. “A humanitarian solution is being negotiated at the European level for a ‘coalition of the willing’ to take in these children,” the government said in a statement.

Berlin was ready to take in an “appropriate” share, it added, saying the country wanted to support Greece in the “difficult” situation it is facing.

Concern over the plight of the minors have grown as they either require urgent medical treatment or are unaccompanied by adults.

On Friday, Erdogan ordered the Turkish coastguard to prevent risky Aegean sea crossings after more than 1,700 migrants landed on Lesbos and four other Aegean islands from Turkey over the past week.

The coastguard however said Turkey’s policy of allowing migrants and refugees to leave by land was untouched, and the instruction only affected sea crossings.

The Turkish president met European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 6pm yesterday.

They will “discuss EU-Turkey matters, including migration, security, stability in the region and the crisis in Syria,” Michel’s spokesman said on Twitter.