BRUSSELS: Turkey and the European Union initialled a "readmission" deal to combat illegal migration across the Turkish border Thursday, a day after Brussels agreed to ease visa requirements for Turkish citizens.
The EU's Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said the deal, which still needs to be officially signed, "reflects our shared interest in a more effective migration and border management."
Under so-called readmission accords with the EU, a country agrees to take back migrants caught after slipping across its border into Europe's visa-free Schengen area.
A surge in illegal migration across Turkey's porous border with Greece has been of particular concern lately throughout the 26-nation Schengen area.
Ankara however had refused to sign the readmission deal with the EU failing progress on a visa accord for its citizens.
But it will take some time before the looser visa requirements are extended to all Turkish citizens.
Meanwhile, Ankara will be asked "to cooperate with all the states of the EU, including Cyprus, to better monitor their borders with the EU, to re-examine their visa policies with non-European countries, as well as to sign the re-entry accord concluded with the EU", said a negotiator who asked not to be identified.
"The road will be narrow and the Turks will have to agree to play the game," said the source.
Several countries including Austria and France have reservations, another diplomat said.
With low-cost flights from Africa to Turkey on the increase as war, chaos and poverty sends people fleeing hot-spots from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Somalia, Turkey has become a staging point for illegal migration into the EU,
"The migratory flow to France no longer passes through the Mediterranean. Illegal migrants from south of the Sahel and the Maghreb are now journeying through Istanbul, on to Greece," former French interior minister Claude Gueant said in April.