Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has recently – in the midst of a global Coronavirus epidemic – opened his borders with Greece while encouraging and aiding droves of Middle Eastern migrants to flood Europe. Thus, the anti-Western Erdogan has done what many unscrupulous leaders have done before – cynically weaponized and exploited migrants to further his own political agenda. The Turkish president is angry at Europe and is punishing it for what he sees as insufficient support for his policy goals in Syria.
It should be obvious that suddenly opening Turkey’s borders with Europe is extremely irresponsible and reckless in light of the Coronavirus emergency. Although, as of this writing, Turkey has two recorded COVID-19 cases, many of Turkey’s Middle Eastern neighbors – Iran in particular (over 10,000 cases) – have many more. Since the virus is already present in most European countries – including Italy, France, Germany, and Greece – unleashing droves of people onto the continent can have potentially catastrophic consequences by adding further fuel to the fire. After all, many migrants come from places with poor or, at times, even nonexistent, healthcare. The fact that quite a few tend to travel in larger groups further exacerbates the potential for mass contagion.
According to the Associated Press, the Turkish government has been using “buses, minibuses and cars” to move migrants to the Greek border. Some migrants revealed that they were being pushed to go to the frontier zone by the Turks. Moreover, the Turkish police have been firing tear gas at the Greek authorities who attempt to maintain control of their side of the border. Migrants themselves sometimes threw Molotov cocktails as they attempted to rush the frontier while Greek farmers, hunters, and other citizens have been assisting their nation’s border security forces. The desperate Greeks have been forced to suspend all asylum applications for a month and summarily deport all illegal border crossers without registering them. As a result, legitimate asylum seekers may be turned away and those who manage to run the gauntlet, and make it into Greece, do not undergo any health screening or national security vetting.
The EU has condemned Ankara’s decision to try and unleash another migrant crisis on a continent still reeling from the aftershocks of the 2015 migrant wave – after which the EU agreed to pay Turkey billions of Euros to keep the refugees/migrants on its soil. The EU’s border agency Frontex is beefing up its presence in Greece – 509 officers – with another 100 personnel being deployed to the Greek-Turkish land border, in addition to relevant equipment.
Yet, even in the face of such a serious crisis, naïve open-borders utopianism is alive and well, just as it is here in the U.S. As Breitbart News reports, “some European governments, such as Finland’s, have said they believe Greece’s decision to suspend asylum applications and push migrants back is ‘wrong’ and against EU law, and the European Commissioner for migration has also suggested that the Mediterranean country must accept migrants who claim to be asylum seekers.”
Why should Americans be concerned about a crisis brewing 5,000 miles away? Because, once Europe becomes overwhelmed with migrants/refugees, it is likely that pressure will follow for the U.S. to take its “share” of the “burden,” as was the case under the Obama administration. That, in turn, is likely to encourage new migratory waves to rush America’s frontiers, at a time when the Trump administration has only just succeeded in restoring a measure of control to our border operations.
The U.S. should play a role in helping resolve the crisis, but it should be done primarily by exerting pressure on wealthy Arab states to finally accept refugees/migrants, even on a temporary basis. This is both because they have the resources to do so and because primarily Muslim migrants – especially if they already speak Arabic – will face fewer cultural obstacles in Islamic Arab nations than in the West. It is time to act fast and think outside the box!