Merkel heads to Turkey as frustration over refugee crisis grows

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)syndication.ap.orgGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Portugal, Antonio Costa, as part of a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other Turkish officials for talks on reducing the influx of migrants to Europe.

Turkey, a key country on the migrant route to Europe, is central to Merkel’s diplomatic efforts to reduce the flow.

The chancellor’s visit comes days after a renewed round of criticism by EU officials about Turkey’s lack of efforts to curb the number of migrants making their way to Europe.

Her talks in Ankara Monday come as Turkey faces mounting pressure to open its border to up to 35,000 Syrians who have massed along the frontier fleeing an onslaught by government forces.

Turkey, home 2.5 million Syrian refugees, says it has reached its capacity to absorb refugees but has indicated that it will continue to provide refuge.

Turkey agreed in November to fight smuggling networks and help curb irregular migration. The EU has pledged 3 billion euros (£2.3 billion, $3.3 billion) to help improve the condition of refugees.

But since the deal, EU officials have denounced on more than one occasion that Turkey was not doing nearly enough to help curb the flow of migrants making their way to Europe.

On Saturday, European Commissioner for enlargement Johannes Hahn, warned that Turkey needed to show results in the coming weeks, before a European summit on February 18.

“This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants,” Hahn told Reuters. “Turkey could do more, I have no doubt.”

Europe needs Turkey to dramatically cut the number of migrants reaching Greece within weeks or the pressure for more border closures and fences will grow, the EU’s top official in charge of ties with Ankara warned on Saturday.

In January alone, over 68,000 crossed the Aegean Sea into Greece, according to
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and over 360 people lost their lives trying to reach Europe.

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