Latvia considers taking in asylum seekers from Turkish soil

Latvia is evaluating the possibility of relocating asylum seekers who are currently in Turkey, Foreign Ministry spokesman Raimonds Jansons told LETA.

So far, Latvia has only agreed to take in asylum seekers from Greece and Italy as part of EU-wide refugee distribution plans.

Asked about the agreement reached during Monday's EU-Turkey Summit, which was held in Brussels, Jansons said Latvia praised the measures which were agreed upon, which would once again allow the normal function of the Schengen zone.

He said that Latvia believes that the Schengen zone is one of the main achievements of the EU, and it is in Latvia's interests to retain the Schengen system.

At the same time, Latvia also values Greece's efforts in this emergency situation and understands the need for additional support for Greece in administering its external borders, identifying migrants, carrying out registration and security inspections, processes related to turning back migrants which do not qualify for asylum, as well as the country's overall refugee system.

He said that Latvia continues to actively support the joint Frontex operations with personnel and equipment, and that further requests for assistance will be evaluated in accordance with state capacity.

Latvia also supports the creation of a common European border and coast guard service by June, Jansons said, adding that Latvia is ready to participate in the project with 30 border guards.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman also said that Latvia is prepared to evaluate the possibility of relocating asylum seekers from Turkey as part of the previously agreed upon number of refugees Latvia has agreed to take in, but did not give mote details about this intention.

The AFP news agency reports that European Union leaders on Monday hailed a "breakthrough" in talks with Turkey on a deal to curb the migrant crisis but delayed a decision until a summit next week to flesh out the details of Ankara's new demands.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stunned his 28 EU counterparts in Brussels when he suddenly asked for an extra three billion euros (USD 3.3 billion) in aid and visa-free travel for Turks to the bloc by June.

In return he proposed to take back all illegal migrants landing on the overstretched Greek islands, and suggested a one-for-one deal under which the EU would resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece.

After EU leaders "warmly welcomed" Turkey's proposals, EU president Donald Tusk said he would now work on the legal details to reach a final deal at a European summit in Brussels on March 17-18.

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