Earlier this week we reported on the outrageous in-principle agreement between the European Union and Turkey regarding the refugee ‘crisis’ and the appeasement of Turkey’s reactionary president Erdogan. It took a couple of days before the mainstream media began to analyse the implications of the agreement – implications regarding Turkey’s future relationship with the EU, human rights in Turkey and, of course, the not unimportant matter of how Europe deals with the hundreds of thousands of refugees currently in limbo in Europe or who are still fleeing war zones. The agreement is not only unworkable but represents a complete reversal of all human rights principles adopted by the EU over the last five decades. It cannot be allowed to proceed. Now that the EU has lost any moral credibility it once claimed to have, is it not time for the people who inhabit the continent to set matters right?
UPDATE: on March 17, four weeks after UndercoverInfo published leaked notes (see below) on a Tusk-Erdogan conversation, Peter Spiegel in the FT also reported on such a leak.
(Note: there are as many as 1,845 cases of people prosecuted for insulting President Erdogan since he took office in 2014.)
The recently announced EU-Turkey deal was actually worked through last year, in November and last month we published copies of notes that purported to paraphrase the conversations between Donald Tusk and Erdogan at that meeting. Yesterday, The Independent added their comment on the November meeting: “…President Erdogan, like Colonel Gaddafi, threatened to flood Europe with refugees and the plan worked. The EU paid up. As his advisor Burhan Kuzu tweeted: “The EU finally got Turkey’s message and opened its purse strings. What did we say? We’ll open our borders and unleash all the Syrian refugees on you.””
One of the key elements of the EU-Turkey deal is the extraordinary arrangement by which any ‘irregular’ Syrian refugees will be returned to Turkey and in exchange non-irregular Syrian refugees (i.e. from a refugee camp in Turkey) would be allowed to fly to Europe. This – reductio ad absurdum – is how, in practice, the scheme would work… A family of four Kurds arrives by boat at Lesvos. With the help of NATO and after some preliminary I.D. checks have been made, a Frontex boat takes the family back to Turkey, where they are detained by the Turkish authorities until they can be moved to Syria (Rojava province). Another family of four Kurds from a camp in Turkey are then invited to replace the family who were returned to the war zone and apply for asylum in an EU member country. This arrangement, of course, is complete nonsense – primarily because if the turn-backs of ‘irregulars’ work, then the number of ‘irregulars’ exiting Turkey will cease, and so no one from the camps in Turkey will be invited to Europe after all.
Or as John Dalhuisen, Europe director for Amnesty International, said: “If [the scheme is] applied in its absolute sense, then the number of refugees that Europe would take would depend on the number of refugees prepared to risk their lives through other means – and that is staring at a moral abyss.”
What is far more likely, however, is that many of the more desperate ‘irregular’ refugees will attempt to find routes other than the main Turkey-Greece routes – e.g. via Bulgaria or the Black Sea.
(Note: contrary to public perception, two-thirds of refugees fleeing to Europe are women and children. Also, Afghans, Pakistanis and other nationalities not deemed entitled to European protection could be sent back to Turkey under another aspect of the EU-Turkey deal.)
Then there is the small matter of the legality of the EU scheme… In short, it contravenes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN refugee convention (adopted by all EU states). Also, Article 19 of the EU’s own charter of fundamental rights specifically states that “collective expulsions are forbidden”. Once arrangements to return Syrian refugees commence, it is liklely that they will be challenged in the courts.
Turkey has neither fully implemented the Geneva refugee convention, nor the ban on repatriating people in search of protection. Consequently, by returning refugees to Turkey, the EU would be in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Both Human Rights Watch and Statewatch agree with this analysis.
In the meantime, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – via his constantly smiling, English-speaking, charm oozing prime minister Ahmed Davutoğlu – has just announced a major spending spree on arms and military equipment, matching almost exactly, taking into account current dollar-euros exchange rates, the funds he’s seeking from the EU to ‘manage’ the refugee crisis.
Turkey’s top procurement panel, the Defense Industry Executive Committee, approved nearly $6 billion in new defense programs, much of it going toward local development efforts. The Committee said: “Today we approved $5.9 billion worth of new defense projects. Around $4.5 billion worth of these projects will consist of local production,” Davutoglu said after the meeting of the committee.
The announcement was suitably given front-page prominence on Thursday’s edition of Today’s Zaman, the paper now run by Erdogan-appointed trustees. Curiously – or maybe unsurprising – Erdogan is unable to see how this takeover and the announcement of the arms purchase plans would set alarms bells ringing in the EU.
Except, that is, Erdogan now knows that he can do almost anything, without worrying about such trivial matters as EU disapproval, given the refugee joker card he still holds. And his immediate agenda…?
Wipe out hundreds of Kurds to ensure no autonomy, expand oil operations with ISIS so as to increase the business assets of his family and in the process close down more media outlets that are in any way critical of Erdogan or his government.
Finally, the following video (provenance unknown) purports to show footage of Erdogan meeting with some jihadists (including Osama bin Laden?). Tut, tut.