On Monday the EU made a momentous decision: to bow to the demands of an elected tyrant – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkish president). The day after the EU issued a statement (see link below for full details) announcing an in-principle agreement that could see thousands of refugees – men, women and children – returned by force to Turkey – which the EU has now designated a ‘safe zone’ – and from there to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict areas. The agreement also announced that the ‘irregular flows’ of migrants along the Western Balkans route have come to an end (i.e. Schengen is no more, until further notice). The Turkish prime minister, who was party to this agreement, took the opportunity to insist that the $3 billion euros the EU will hand over to Turkey should be raised to $6 billion euros. Thus, the appeasement was complete.
“It is waging war on an ethnic minority, its riot police just stormed the offices of a major newspaper, its secret service faces allegations of arming Isis, its military shot down a Russian bomber – and yet Turkey wants to join the European Union. The country’s swift descent into despotism poses yet another existential problem for the west.” Paul Mason via article in Monday’s Guardian.
Erdogan’s Turkey has indeed waged civil war against the Kurds, who make up almost one third of the population; has ensured there is no more free press in the country; has crushed opposition over decades via covert terror squads and has been the main buyer of oil from ISIS with much of the profits from that oil ending up in bank accounts of the family of Erdogan himself – the very man the EU likes to do business with.
It is estimated that there are around 37,000 refugees stranded in Greece. There are several thousand more ‘in transit’ in the Balkan countries: they are not allowed to head north and they will probably be required to return to Greece. In the meantime more refugees are arriving daily on the Greek islands. By the time the new EU measures to expel the refugees are fully in place, the total number of refugees in Greece is likely to be closer to 100,000. It is unclear at this stage what the fate of the 100,000 will be.
According to a press release the EU agreed to…
- the return of all new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into the Greek islands
- the acceleration of the implementation of the visa liberalization roadmap [to allow Turks to travel openly across Europe]
- the decision to speed up the disbursement of the 3 billlion and decide on additional funding [up to 6 billion euros] for the refugee facility for Syrians
- the preparation for the decision on the opening of new chapters in the accession negotiations [with Turkey]
- the consideration of the possibility of establishing humanitarian safe areas in Syria [!!!]
- the resettlement, for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey from Greek islands, of another Syrian from Turkey to the EU [!!!]
There are some obvious problems here.
Firstly, the statement makes no mention of the relocation to countries within Europe of the thousands of Syrian and non-Syrian refugees already in transit and mostly in Greece or in the Balkan countries. While the statement talks of ‘new’ migrants being turned back, it fails to make clear what will happen to those refugees already out of Turkey.
Secondly, there is no reference in the statement to the legal processes by which these refugees or the newly arrived refugees would be returned to Turkey. Regardless, their return is likely to be challenged within the European courts – see below.
Thirdly, as for the idea that refugees arriving ‘irregularly’ would be exchanged for refugees in camps in Turkey (or Lebanon or Jordan) this is non-sensical: all war refugees, whether attempting to flee by sea or seeking other means to escape conflict, are deserving of asylum. Under international law it is illegal to return refugees who claim asylum from conflict zones: to do so contravenes the principle of non-refoulment to which all EU countries are a signatory.
Fourthly, for the EU to attempt to return large numbers of asylum-seekers would certainly risk – provoke – massive protests all across Europe.
Here is the full statement of Monday’s heads of state/government summit on the ‘refugee crisis’.
A statement from the UN was issued in response… “Collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights. An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law,” said Vincent Cochetel during a UN briefing.
The EU statement also fails to mention anything about what would happen to the refugees once they are back in Turkey. Well, it so happens that the EU has funded a string of detention centres in Turkey – centres, according to an Amnesty International report, where refugees have been abused before being forced back to war zones.
As for the so-called ‘safe areas’ in Syria that are referred to in the EU statement… anyone who thinks the war going on there will be over in the next few weeks, or months, is living in cloud-cuckoo land.
Interestingly, much of what has been announced so far by the EU summit was foreshadowed in a leaked document – the authenticity of which, according to Reuters, the EC ‘neither confirms nor denies’, which usually means it’s true, at least in substance. (UPDATE: Peter Spiegel of the FT also commented on 17 March – four weeks after the UndercoverInfo article – on a Tusk-Erdogan leaked report.)
In his blog, Paul Mason further commented: “This [Monday’s summit agreement] is one of the most shameful commitments the EU has ever given. We should state, now, there is no possibility of Turkey joining the EU under the AK Party. In the leaked documents that’s what Erdogan says: put us out of our misery. Europe should, as I suggest in the Guardian, signal to the secular, democratic forces in Turkey that it will re-start accession talks only when there has been a stable democracy for, say, five years, with full commitments to human rights, press freedom etc honoured.”
And to add to that comment…
Turkey should never be allowed accession to the ‘European experiment’ until, that is, there is a fully independent Kurdistan.