Turkey, EU sign deals on illegal immigrants

By The Citizen

Turkey and the European Union on Monday signed an agreement to allow EU governments to send back illegal immigrants crossing into Europe from Turkey.

The two signed the agreement in a move to highlight a thaw in relations between Turkey and the 28-member bloc at a ceremony in Ankara, the Turkish capital.

The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom also signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe.

Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

Talks on the 'readmission agreement' to send back illegal immigrants had been stalled for years, largely due to Turkish distrust of EU willingness to ease visa rules.

Turkey started negotiations to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying.

However, a series of political obstacles, particularly over the divided island of Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France, slowed progress.