European Union (EU) and Turkish leaders celebrated a "historic day" today (March 18, 2016), after sealing a widely-criticized pact to send thousands of asylum-seekers back to Turkey -- a deal that will cost millions and require the rapid dispatch of thousands of experts to Greece to undertake the complicated task of making the plan a reality -- the Chicago Tribune website reports.
The leaders announced that as of Sunday (March 20, 2016), all migrants arriving in the Greek islands who do not qualify for asylum or whose applications are deemed "inadmissible" would be returned to Turkey.
In exchange, Ankara was promised fast-track procedures to get billions of euros in aid to deal with Syrian refugees, unprecedented visa concessions for Turks to come to Europe, and a re-energizing of its EU membership bid.
Today's agreement was met with strong objections by humanitarian organizations. The U.N. refugee agency highlighted deficiencies in Turkey's asylum system, and rights groups expressed concern of Turkey's forceful closing down of its largest opposition newspaper last week by the Erdogan government, clearly illustrating Turkey's failure to provide freedom of the press.