EU Border Office Chief on Refugee Crisis: 'We Should Have No Illusions, numbers are not coming down'. (Spiegel).
SPIEGEL: Mr. Leggeri, Turkey is seen as playing a crucial role in handling the refugee crisis. Is the government there doing enough to limit the influx of migrants to Europe?
Leggeri: No. Taking care of 2 million Syrian refugees is, of course, a burden for Turkey. I appreciate that. But if Ankara is going to demand sweeping concessions, such as a relaxation of visa requirements for its citizens, we Europeans should be able to expect more in return in the form of more stringent border controls.
SPIEGEL: As the head of the EU border agency Frontex, what do you have in mind?
Leggeri: Turkey should make life more difficult for the human-traffickers. These are organized criminals we're talking about. The Turkish police have the responsibility and the opportunity to put them out of business. At the very least, we expect Turkey to provide us with information: How many refugees can we expect? And where are they going to arrive?
SPIEGEL: At the moment, the number of refugees is decreasing slightly compared to last autumn. Why?
Leggeri: This seems to be due to the winter weather. We won't be able to say whether cooperating with Turkey has already begun to show positive results for at least another few weeks. Despite the bad weather, between 2,000-3,000 people are arriving in Greece each day.
SPIEGEL: The UN refugee agency estimates that a million refugees could try and reach the EU via Turkey this year. Is this realistic?
Leggeri: Yes. We should have no illusions: As long as the bloodshed in Syria continues, refugees will keep coming. Even if all we're able to do is keep the numbers stable, that would already be an achievement.
SPIEGEL: Three thousand people per day for 365 days ...
Leggeri: ... is still 1 million refugees a year. I'm familiar with the math.
SPIEGEL: Amnesty International reports that Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian and Iraqi refugees back to their home countries.
Leggeri: I can't confirm those reports. One thing is clear: Turkey is a candidate country for EU accession. It is required to offer sanctuary to people in need of protection. It may not simply send them back into danger. Read the full story here.