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EU seeking ‘plan B’ if Turkey refugee deal collapses: Reports

German press claims EU considering allowing Greece to keep failed asylum seekers on islands and preventing passage to mainland
The current migration deal could be at risk amid a disagreement over visa-free EU travel for Turkish passport-holders (AFP)

EU officials are weighing up alternative plans to curb migration into Europe amid fears that a controversial deal with Turkey could break down, reports in the German press suggest.

A proposed “plan B” could see funding allocated to Turkey given instead to Greece, which would agree to turn its islands into registration sites and cancel ferry services to stop asylum seekers reaching the mainland.

The plan was reported on Monday by Das Bild, a mass-circulation German newspaper known to be close to the country’s government.

The report quoted an anonymous EU minister as saying that the alternative plan could see refused asylum seekers deported straight back to their countries of origin - or third countries deemed “safe” - from the Greek islands.

The German government issued a swift denial of the report on Monday, saying it is counting on the current deal with Turkey holding strong.

“There are no grounds to doubt the further implementation of the current deal,” an interior ministry spokesperson told German news site Deutsche Welle.

The current deal came into force in March, with Turkey agreeing to take back asylum seekers whose claims are rejected by Europe in exchange for funding and concessions like visa-free travel within the EU for Turkish passport holders.

The deal was hailed by European leaders as a major breakthrough during the most severe migration crisis to hit the EU since World War II, but has been criticised by rights groups and lawyers who say it could break international law by jeopardising the right to claim asylum.

However, amid protracted negotiations to secure visa-free travel for Turkish nationals, there are growing signs that the EU-Turkey deal could be at risk.

Burhan Kuzu, a senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, posted several messages on Twitter on Tuesday warning that the European Parliament had an “important choice” to make.

“If they make the wrong decision, we will send off the refugees.”

There has been growing concern over the future of the deal since the announcement last week that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, one of the architects of the agreement, was to resign.

Though the German government has denied making alternative plans, a politician from the ruling coalition this week said it would be “normal to consider alternatives”.

“I can’t understand what all the fuss is about,” Karl-Georg Hellmann, an MP from the Christian Democratic Union - the most powerful partner in the ruling coalition - told Deutsche Welle on Monday.

“It seems pretty clear: we can’t completely and utterly rely on Turkey. It’s normal to consider alternatives.”

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