In another fit of rage, the ever-impulsive and autocratic President Erdogan of Turkey has issued a third threat to the EU – see here for threat one and here for threat two – regarding the deal on refugees, stating it will be unilaterally cancelled by Ankara should the EU persist in demanding he reform his Government’s definition of terrorists, which currently applies to anyone opposing his regime but not, paradoxically, ISIS militants, who the courts have just released (see below). Currently the EU continues to demand that the Turkish Government’s definition of terrorists be narrowed (this is one of many conditions, if adopted, that will enable Turkey to enjoy visa-free travel across the Schengen area) while Erdogan refuses to budge, preferring a definition – not dis-similar to the UK’s definition of extremists – that enables him to continue gagging and jailing his opponents.
Meanwhile Burhan Kuzu, a senior adviser to Erdogan, tweeted the following this week:
Avrupa Parlamentosu,yarın Türk Vatandaşlarına Avrupa yolunu vizesiz açacak raporu görüşecek.Yanlış bir karar verirse Mültecileri göndeririz!
— Burhan Kuzu (@BurhanKuzu) May 10, 2016
(Translation: “The European Parliament will discuss the report that will open Europe visa-free for Turkish citizens. If the wrong decision is taken, we will send the refugees.”)
According to Der Spiegel: “Elif Özmenek Çarmikli of the Ankara-based think tank International Strategic Research Organization, the question is when, not if, Turkey will revoke the refugee deal. To do so, Erdogan wouldn’t even have to put the migrants in buses and drive them to the border, as he threatened in a conversation with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last autumn [see evidence, published earlier by UndercoverInfo, in Appendix below]. It would likely be enough were the Turkish police and military to cease patrolling the Turkish west coast and were Turkey to stop taking refugees back from Greece.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Turkish authorities released several prominent ISIS sympathisers – including militants caughts with arms and explosives – as part of a suspected deal with ISIS. Other ISIS militants were released in March. Many believe that either Erdogan has reached a deal with ISIS to avoid further bombings in Turkey, or that the bombings were false flag operations to help Erdogan retain his power grip. There has been other evidence of collusion between Turkey and ISIS – including supplying arms and jailing journalists, as well as trading in ISIS oil.
Meanwhile there appears to be a state of paralysis in Europe on what next to do regarding refugees. Yes, the flow from Turkey seems to have ebbed (though the far more dangerous route to Europe from Libya is back in action again). But with most of the borders north of Greece closed there are an estimated 50,000 refugees still in limbo, unable to leave Greece. Furthermore Greece is – understandably – entirely unprepared in terms of logistics to ‘process’ the refugees. The dubious aim is to identify which of the refugees are ‘genuine’ asylum-seekers and which are ‘economic’ refugees (the latter would then be deported to Turkey).
The 50,000 have been stuck in Greece for months with at least 11,000 still at Idomeni, at the border with FYROM. In other words, the EU refugee policy remains a mess. Medecins Sans Frontieres and other NGOs, as well as ordinary Greeks, are doing their best to cope with this chaos, but there is still no progress.
The Refugee Convention is clear: it stipulates that anyone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin on account of a “well-founded fear” of persecution, on the basis of their sociological characteristics or their political opinions, is entitled to protection against forcible return (“non-refoulement”).
Below is a detailed statement from MSF on the EU-Turkey agreement and the situation in Greece…
Statement by MSF to all EU states and institutions:
We write this letter to you today to share our profound concern that by signing the EU-Turkey agreement you have turned your back on thousands of people fleeing war, oppression, and despair.
The “EU-Turkey deal” effectively outsources caring for these people to Turkey in exchange for, amongst other things, a multi-billion euro financial aid package. In an era of the greatest displacement of humanity in decades, this is a historic abdication of your moral and legal responsibilities.
We have been treating victims of Europe’s deterrence approach to migration for years, in what has become an acute humanitarian crisis on European soil. We’ve reset bones broken by police, treated children shot in the head by rubber bullets and rinsed the eyes of babies doused in tear gas. Instead of focusing on alleviating the crisis, EU and Member States have decided to simply walk away and push it on to others.
This deal threatens the right of all people to seek asylum and violates your obligation to assist each man, woman or child asking for protection. Pushing people back to their country of last transit transforms asylum into nothing but a political bargaining chip to keep refugees as far away from European borders and the eyes of the European voting public as possible. Today, there is virtually no option left for people to safely reach European shores to claim asylum.
In exchange, you have promised “humanitarian” and development aid to fulfill the needs of Syrian refugees and presented these funds as a measure to ease human suffering. But this aid is now conditional on shipping suffering offshore, betraying the humanitarian principle of providing aid based on need alone. By offering billions of euros to care for people out of sight in Turkey, aid agencies may be caught in a dreadful dilemma: should they provide desperately needed aid in service of an anti-humanitarian policy that has the ultimate goal of border control?
There are undoubtedly needs in Turkey, a country already struggling to offer effective protection to nearly 3 million refugees within its borders, but we ask you to separate humanitarian aid from the political agreement.
This deal is sending a troubling signal to the rest of the world: countries can buy their way out of providing asylum. If replicated by many nations, the concept of refugee will cease to exist. People will be trapped in warzones unable to flee for their lives, with no choice but to stay and die. The recent bombing of a camp hosting displaced people near Idlib that killed at least 28 people shows that the concept of “safe spaces” in Syria is not viable.
Meanwhile the official welcome offered by Europe to those stranded in Greece is shameful. In camps on the Greek islands there are virtually no safeguards in place. Women fear to go to the toilet once darkness falls, mothers beg for formula milk to feed their babies, and men of all ages lose their dignity fighting over scraps of food or who is next in line.
European countries, people are in need of your help and protection – not just your money. Is World War II so long ago that you no longer recall the basic human need to flee from violence and persecution when left with no other choice? We understand that meeting the huge challenges of the global displacement crisis has become a controversial political issue, but for us it is first and foremost a humanitarian one, and it should be for you too.
Many of your citizens have risen to this challenge by volunteering to help others, but your leadership has lagged behind for fear of potential political consequences. We appeal to you, the leaders of Europe, to rise to the challenge: use your substantial resources to welcome and offer protection to those who need your help.
Dr. Joanne Liu
Médecins Sans Frontières
Appendix: notes from meeting between Erdogan and Tusk last November (four images):
The following extracts were published by UndercoverInfo in February 2016…