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Turkey to not stop refugees until EU takes steps towards integration, Erdogan vows

Currently, 3.5 million migrants seeking entry to the EU have been staying in Turkey

MOSCOW, March 11. /TASS/. Turkey will not stop Syrian refugees seeking entry to the EU until Brussels takes concrete steps towards integration of Turkey into the Union, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said before the parliament on Wednesday, according to NTV channel.

"We will continue with our current policy, until there are concrete steps on visa-free regime, until new points of negotiations [on European integration] are open, until the agreement on Customs Union is updated. The flows of illegal migrants will fill the Mediterranean," he vowed.

Erdogan added that he expects the EU to "fulfill promises made earlier and stick to terms of agreements," and underscored that "the Europeans will have to think now."

According to the Turkish leader, "there is no visible determination to overcome the [migrant] crisis" and tensions with Ankara. He recalled that in 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal on migrants, under which Turkey agreed to accommodate Syrian migrants, in exchange for Brussels’ funding for their accommodation and the visa-free regime.

"We have done more than we had to. For nine years we used to provide the refugees with food, water, and clothes. The flow of migrants in the Aegean Sea reduced from 7,000 people per day to 70, EU border crossings shrank by 92% However, the EU failed to fulfill its promises, either not providing the funding at all, or providing it indirectly and ineffectively," Erdogan went on.

This is why Ankara recently decided not to prevent the refugees from entering Europe, he specified, adding that more than 157,000 Syrians already crossed the border heading for Greece.

At the peak of the 2016 migrant crisis, Brussels and Ankara reached an agreement, under which Turkey undertook to close its EU border for migrants, and the Union was to pay 6 billion euros in return. The EU also promised visa-free regime to Ankara, but failed to keep its promise, demanding that Turkey first reviewed its anti-terrorism legislation. Currently, 3.5 million migrants seeking entry to the EU have been staying in Turkey.