Britain will not be taking any extra migrants as a result of a deal being struck between the European Union and Turkey, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Mr Cameron was speaking as he arrived at a summit in Brussels at which it is hoped to finalise an agreement drawn up with Turkey two weeks ago to stem the flow of migrants across the eastern Mediterranean.
The Prime Minister said that reaching a deal to allow migrants to be returned from Greek islands to Turkey would represent “good progress”.
Under the terms of the proposed deal, the European Union would take one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every migrant returned to the country. Ankara stands to gain €6 billion (about £4.7bn) in aid as well as visa-free travel for its nationals.
But Mr Cameron said that provisions on the visas and refugee resettlement would not apply to Britain as it is not part of the EU’s Schengen border-free area.
He said: “Because we have kept our own border controls, because we are out of Schengen, we won’t be offering visa-free access to Turks as part of this agreement.
“We maintain our own immigration policy. We have already said what we are going to do in terms of taking Syrian refugees to Britain and that is under way. We won’t be taking more because of what is discussed here.
“If we can get an agreement that returns the migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey that would be good progress.”
Mr Cameron’s official spokeswoman said the UK believes the proposed new arrangements with Turkey can be imposed “in line with EU and international law” as individual cases would be assessed on their merits.
But Amnesty International refugee director Steve Symonds said: “The plan lacks both logic and compassion. By abandoning their legal obligations, European leaders won’t put a stop to refugee migration. In fact, they’ll make it even less likely that countries like Turkey will improve their treatment of refugees, resulting in still more people risking their lives in search of safety.”
Since January 2015, a million people have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece. More than 132,000 have arrived this year alone.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Germany will negotiate intensively because we have to improve the humanitarian situation in Greece.”