• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks

Fierce criticism has greeted the claim by the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, about the dangers of giving Turks easier entry to Europe. He said that for the EU “to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to the fire.” He warned that extreme right wing populist parties in Europe would benefit from the hostile reaction to a fresh wave of migrants as has happened already in Austria and beyond.

In response to his remarks Dearlove was denounced for speaking in “tabloid language” and indulging in demagoguery. It was even suggested that his outspokenness was a cunning attempt to divert attention from the upcoming publication of the Chilcot report which is expected to criticise him over his role in Britain taking part in the Iraq war of 2003. Somewhere along the line – as with much of the rest of the debate on Britain’s membership of the EU – discussion has become disconnected from reality.

The issue of visa-free entry of Turks to the EU should raise a number of important questions. It pushes the outer barrier to the entry of migrants, as well as Isis and al-Qaeda terrorists, further south and east to Turkey’s 717-mile long border with Iraq and Syria. More than twice the length of the French-German border, this is highly porous and abuts on the world’s biggest war zone.

This war is no longer confined to Syria and Iraq, but has spread since last summer into south east Turkey where the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are locked in a savage guerrilla war. Large parts of Kurdish cities in Turkey like Cizre and Diyarbakir are in ruins and at least 200,000 Turkish Kurds have fled, some of whom have been found in the boats trying to reach Greek islands in the Aegean.

There is something bizarre about EU policy when it comes to migration from this part of the world. It seems to be based on the supposition that refugees are in flight from the war in Syria, but in practice the battle zone is today far larger. The conflict is at its most intense in Syria, Iraq and south east Turkey, but there are at least seven wars and three serious insurgencies being fought out in the swathe of land between Pakistan and Nigeria. In Syria, Iraq and SE Turkey, with a total population of around 60 million, people fear that the only prospect is war and economic breakdown and want to get out.

I was talking earlier this year to a group of women the town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan who were Arab and Kurdish refugees from Syria and Iraq. All were living in houses not camps and had some form of employment, but – with the exception of one woman from Fallujah whom the other refugees gently mocked for not being frank about her travel plans – all of them wanted to make their way to Europe.

Officials in Brussels and Berlin may imagine that lines on the map in the Middle East denote real barriers to movement. But the smuggling of people and goods is one of the main businesses in the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian border area, fuelled for decades by the profits to be made by evading sanctions imposed on Iran and Iraq. Note also that central government authority in this area is limited because the dominant ethnic group are Kurds at odds with Ankara, Baghdad and Damascus.

A further problem with the EU’s proposed front line is that on the Turkish side of the border the Turkish army has proved either incapable or unwilling to stop people crossing to, or from, Turkish territory. The PKK moves freely between its bases in the Kandil Mountains in Iraq and its hideouts in Turkey. In Syria Isis still controls a 60-mile-stretch of the border west of the Euphrates, fighting successfully over the last month to keep control of its populous and fertile territory in northern Aleppo province. The advance of the Syrian Kurds along the border has squeezed Isis’s access to Turkey but its fighters and supporters can still cross.

In fact, Isis may not have to send terrorists from its heartlands across the frontier since it already has ethnic Kurdish and Turkish cells in Turkey. Some of these were involved in suicide bomb attacks there last year and in future they can easily do the same inside the EU.

EU policy towards Turkey – centred on the migrant crisis and the threat of Isis terror attacks – is based largely on wishful thinking. The surge in migrant numbers and Isis terrorism will only be brought under control when the wars end in the Iraq-Syrian-SE Turkish triangle. EU leaders were briefly energised by the influx of migrants last summer, followed by the Isis killings in Paris and Brussels, but present proposals will be at best ineffectual and probably counter-productive.

The implementation of the visa-free regime in the 26-nation Schengen zone of the EU is currently being delayed by Turkish unwillingness to modify anti-terrorism laws that target all forms of criticism of the state. Nevertheless, EU officials speak confidently of the scheme going ahead with one saying that “it’s not the first time there has been quite provocative talk from the Turkish side, then we sat down and found a way forward.”

By making the southern border of Turkey the new barrier against migration and terrorism, EU leaders are deluding themselves by including part of the Middle East battle zone within their outer defences and pretending that there is no war in SE Turkey and the Turkish border is impermeable. Dearlove is right to say that the EU’s ill-judged response to the twin crises over migrants and Isis is set to fail and the political beneficiaries will be the proto-fascist right across Europe.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
May 23, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Belligerence of Empire
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail