EU reassures Turkey over its ?3bn migrants package

EU reassures Turkey over its ?3bn migrants package

Hatay (Turkey) (AFP) - The EU's 3-billion euro package to help migrants in Turkey will have been fully assigned to projects by the end of the year, the bloc's envoy said Tuesday.

All the funds, part of a deal with Turkey to tackle Europe's migrant crisis, will be fully assigned by the end of 2017, said Christian Berger, the EU ambassador to Turkey.

Berger was speaking during a visit to the southern Turkish city of Hatay, near the border with Syria.

"We will know exactly what we are doing with the three billion euros ($3.3 billion) and we will have contracted almost the entire amount of money at the end of this year," he told reporters.

Berger was in Hatay for the handover of EU-financed medical equipment worth 220,000 euros ($247,000) to a medical centre serving 300 refugees daily, which also trains Syrian doctors and nurses.

In March last year, Brussels signed an agreement with Ankara to halt the flow of migrants coming to EU member states.

In return, the EU undertook to speed up talks on Turkey's accession into the EU and to loosen visa restrictions for Turks.

But while the deal substantially reduced the flow of migrants into Europe, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly accused Brussels of failing to deliver the funds.

Berger said the issue was discussed during the May 25 meeting between Erdogan, European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.

As of May, 811 million euros ($910 million) has already been paid out, according to official EU figures.

Turkey is home to 2.9 million Syrian refugees, according to official interior ministry figures, with over 380,000 in Hatay province on the Syrian border.