“Turkey has the determination and will to stop the illegal flow of migrants to Europe from its territory,” the official told foreign reporters in Istanbul, noting the process would take “some time” as Turkey has a border of more than 900 km long with Syria and Iraq.
The statement came before a special summit between Turkey and EU countries in Brussels on March 7 to push forward a deal aimed at stemming the flow of migrants into Europe.
Under a deal signed last November, Turkey agreed to help curb the flow of refugees in return for EU’s provision of 3 billion euros (3.2 billion U.S. dollars) in aid and agreement to expedite its EU membership process.
The Turkish foreign ministry official said that as a result of close cooperation between Turkey and EU countries, the number of refugees reaching Greek islands from Turkey has dropped “drastically” during the last couple of months.
According to United Nations data, the number of migrant arrivals by sea to Greek islands is around 130,000 since the start of 2016, while the figure hit one million in total last year.
As of Feb. 15, the official said, Turkey had started to give permission to Syrian refugees to work in the country so as to stop them from going to European countries.
He also referred to changes made in the e-visa system for Iraqis and Libyans, who constitute another bulk of refugees intending to go to Europe, a move that has caused the number to “fall even further.”
Turkey has lately strengthened its cooperation with Germany and a joint working group has met three times in a short time period.
NATO has agreed to send three ships to the Aegean Sea for naval patrolling to return migrants to Turkey.
Saying Ankara is the “mastermind” behind the NATO mission, the Turkish official denied allegations that Turkey is attempting to block it.