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Refugee casualties in Turkish Aegean drop to zero

Waiting at the back of a long queue outside the office of an Istanbul company specializing in EU visa applications, Ekrem Durmaz voiced the frustrations of those around him.

Refugee casualties in Turkish Aegean drop to zero

Waiting at the back of a long queue outside the office of an Istanbul company specializing in EU visa applications, Ekrem Durmaz voiced the frustrations of those around him.

Refugee casualties in Turkish Aegean drop to zero
03 May 2016 - 19:10

Waiting at the back of a long queue outside the office of an Istanbul company specializing in EU visa applications, Ekrem Durmaz voiced the frustrations of those around him.
“I am standing in line here among 100 other people to get a visa, this is ridiculous,” he said.
Durmaz, who travels to Denmark regularly to visit family, is one of many Turks looking forward to the prospect of European travel without having to endure the time-consuming and expensive business of getting a visa every time he wants to go to the EU.
Under an EU-Turkey deal agreed to ease the refugee crisis facing the 28-nation bloc, within a few weeks he may never have to stand in line for a travel permit again.
On Wednesday, the European Commission is to make a recommendation to the European Parliament and member states on approving visa liberalization for Turkish nationals by the end of June.
In order to do this, it must show that Turkey has fulfilled 72 requirements - something senior politicians such as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Minister Volkan Bozkir have said the country is on course to do.
These benchmarks include practical matters such as document security, migration management, public order and security as well as issues such as fundamental rights and the readmission of “irregular migrants”, according to the commission, the EU’s executive body.
The Turkish media has recently reported that Turkey has satisfied at least 61 of the requirements and expects its citizens to be able to travel freely across the Schengen zone by July.
However, among Turks there are mixed feelings about Europe’s apparent change of heart.
Cem Davsan, who works at a private visa application company in Istanbul, said he thought the changes in visa rules would only affect certain social classes in Turkey.
“If visa freedom is implemented then I think it will only happen for people who work in large companies,” he told Anadolu Agency. “I don’t think normal people with a minimum wage in Turkey will receive visa freedom… it will only happen for people in a certain social [class].”
Paperwork
Davsan, whose firm helps aspiring travelers unravel the paperwork associated with applying for an EU visa, said the most popular countries among Turks seeking to travel to Europe this summer were Italy, Greece and Spain.
Germany is also a favored destination due to its large Turkish population and family ties.
Ayla Karamate, a retired Turk in her mid-60s, said she had been waiting for visa liberalization since the 1980s. She recently paid a private visa company 135 euros ($153) to have her application processed.
“I keep promising myself I won’t pay money again but I end up doing it anyway,” she said.
As well as visa freedom, Turkey has also secured a number of other concessions from the EU in return for readmitting rejected asylum seekers, including the speeding up of Turkey’s EU membership bid and a 6 billion euro ($6.9 billion) humanitarian aid package for Syrian refugees.
Davutoglu has also warned the EU that Turkey could not be expected to stick to its end of the bargain if its visa liberalization is not in place by June, raising the prospect of the deal breaking down and thousands of refugees flocking to the Greek islands lying just off Turkey’s western coast this summer.
Since it came into force last month, the EU-Turkey agreement has reduced the number of arrivals from at least 56,000 in February to around 7,800 in the past month, according to the European Commission.
“We have seen a sharp reduction of the illegal migration flows,” European Council President Donald Tusk said during a visit to Turkey on April 24.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday that “the EU would be well advised to meet their obligations, and of course Turkey too. These include the promised visa liberalization as soon as Ankara has fulfilled the necessary conditions.”
However, for Sahin Celik, a 44-year-old shop worker from Istanbul, even the prospect of traveling without a visa would not tempt him away from Turkey’s shores.
“I wouldn’t want to go to the EU,” he said. “It is not in my interest. I like my own country more and I would prefer going to my own village in Malatya.”
Zeynep Aydin, a Turkish businesswoman who travels to Europe frequently, said visa liberalization would “make her life easier”, adding: “But I don’t want to keep my hopes up.”

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