SOFIA, Bulgaria: The EU and Turkey reached a deal on Thursday to stem the flow of refugees, as Bulgarian border guards shot dead an Afghan migrant trying to cross from Turkey in a dangerous new turn in the crisis.
The death, believed to be the first of its kind during the crisis, forced Bulgaria’s premier to fly home from a summit of European leaders in Brussels where the agreement with Turkey was announced.
Under the plan, Turkey agreed to tackle people-smugglers and take measures to keep more of the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict from crossing by sea to Europe.
In exchange, European leaders agreed to give Ankara more funds to tackle the problem and to speed up work to ease visa restrictions on Turkish citizens travelling to Europe.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the deal was a “major step forward” but added that “an agreement with Turkey only makes sense if it effectively contains the flow of refugees.”
Turkey is the main departure point for the more than 600,000 migrants who have entered Europe this year, most of them making the short but dangerous sea crossing to the Greek islands, but some also coming by land.
Tusk said Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told him about the Turkish border shooting just before he left the summit, adding: “It shows how important our discussion was. Prime Minister Borisov is aware that we are ready to help.”
– Bulgaria shooting –
Bulgaria, which has deployed 2,000 guards, police and troops along its porous border with Turkey, said the Afghan was shot in an “incident” as a large group of migrants tried to cross the frontier.
“One man suffered a gunshot wound in the incident and died on the way to hospital,” an interior ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
Interior ministry chief of staff Georgy Kostov told public BNR radio that a group of 50 Afghan migrants was intercepted by two border guards and a police officer.
“They put up resistance during the arrest. One of the officers fired warning shots and, in his words, one of the migrants was wounded by a ricochet and later died,” Kostov said.
The crisis has already claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people this year who have drowned while making the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean as they flee conflict and repression in the Middle East and elsewhere.
The Turkish deal came after European Commission officials visited Turkey on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to persuade the government to sign up to the plan, following a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Brussels last week.
Turkish officials presented their EU counterparts with a “wish list” during the talks in Ankara on Thursday, which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later talked the leaders through at their summit in Brussels.
The demands included three billion euros ($3.4 billion) in new aid, easing visa restrictions, opening new chapters in Turkey’s long-stalled accession negotiations for EU membership, being included on the list of “safe countries” for asylum and to have more Turkey-EU summits, an EU source said.
Juncker told AFP that there was no concrete amount of money in the final deal and the figures would have to be negotiated. – AFP