For months, Western policymakers have agonized over what to do with the masses of Sunni Muslim migrants flooding Europe by the boatload, particularly Syrians. Largely missing from this discussion is the question of why this flood is happening.
For starters, it doesn’t have much to do directly with the civil war in Syria or the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS). The vast majority of the 886,662 migrants who illegally entered Europe this year embarked from Turkey, a little over half of them Syrians who took shelter in the country over the past four years. “EU officials have said … Ankara was very effective in previous years in preventing the outflow of refugees from the country,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
What caused the spike in migration is that Ankara stopped containing it. Over the past year or so, the Turkish government has allowed human traffickers to vastly expand their operations, bringing prices down tenfold (from $10,000-$12,000 per person last year to around $1,250 today, according to one report). This spawned what the New York Times calls a “multimillion-dollar shadow economy” profiting from the traffic, ranging from the smugglers to manufacturers of cheap rafts, life vests, and other equipment.
So why did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan open the spigot? Put simply, to extract financial, political, and strategic concessions from European governments in exchange for closing it.
Ankara certainly hasn’t been shy about asking for money over the course of its negotiations with EU officials in recent weeks. On Nov. 29, the EU agreed to provide Turkey with an “initial” $3.19 billion and take steps to expedite its bid to join the EU in exchange for Turkish promises to better patrol its coastlines.
Erdogan also used the crisis to generate foreign political support ahead of snap elections on Nov. 1, essentially a re-do of the June 2015 elections that saw the ruling AKP lose its parliamentary majority for the first time. Though Western diplomatic protocol frowns on state visits during election time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Istanbul for high-profile meetings with Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu just two weeks before the vote. The European Commission postponed the release of a report detailing the erosion of the rule of law, freedom of expression, and judicial independence in Turkey until after the election in order, according to Reuters, “to avoid antagonizing” its president.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi used to play the same game, turning the pipeline of illegal trans-African migration into Europe on and off as a way of extracting concessions. The most vexing question, then as now, is not what to do with the migrants, but what to do with a government that so callously manipulates masses of downtrodden human beings as a diplomatic pressure tactic.
Full article: Turkey’s Human Wave Assault on the West (The Epoch Times)