EU ministers visit Greece and Turkey

Six EU ministers will visit Greece and Turkey on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to discuss the refugee issue. The trip is an initiative of the Dutch EU Presidency.

On Friday evening, foreign minister Bert Koenders and his French, Slovakian, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese counterparts will speak with the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. On Saturday talks are planned with several members of the Greek government in Athens.

'Greece is facing a daunting challenge as a result of the large influx of migrants. We need to show our solidarity with them,’ said Mr Koenders prior to the visit. The ministers believe it is important to see the situation in Greece and Turkey for themselves shortly after implementation of the migration deal has begun, and to speak about the current state of affairs in that area.

The ministers will also visit a registration centre for refugees near Athens, to observe how refugees are processed. The ministers will also speak with civil society organisations that help refugees. ‘A number of major first steps have already been taken. We also want to hear first hand from the organisations themselves what difficulties they’re encountering and how we can help out,’ said Mr Koenders.

The ministers will also be briefed by Frontex (the European border control agency), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

After visiting Greece, the ministers will travel on to Turkey. In Istanbul they will meet with the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, on Saturday evening. The main items on the agenda will be the millions of refugees currently in Turkey and the broader regional situation, including the war in Syria and the fight against ISIS.

On Sunday morning the ministers have meetings planned with a number of other parties, including UNHCR and Amnesty International.