Despite a deal with the European Union that promised stricter regulations on migrants traveling from Turkey to the EU, Turkey is doing little to prevent them from entering Europe. Turkey has also not done much to care for those stranded within their borders.
This was expected to change last year after a mini-summit led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on November 29 in Brussels, to discuss closer cooperation between the EU and Turkey. Both the parties agreed to three main points: to limit the number of refugees leaving Turkey for the EU; to establish a bilateral readmission process, and to accept migrants expelled from the EU. In return Turkey would receive three billion euros from the EU and the US to aid refugees -- especially the 2.2 million Syrians now living in Turkey. Additionally, EU member-states would allow visa-free entry for citizens of Turkey.
After the summit, French President François Hollande told reporters, "As Turkey is making an effort to take in refugees -- who will not come to Europe -- it's reasonable that Turkey receive help from Europe to accommodate those refugees."
Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters, "Today is a historic day in our accession process to the EU. With EU leaders today we will be sharing the destiny of our continent, global challenges of the economic crisis as well as regional geopolitical challenges in front of us including migration issues."
The proposed deal seemed to anticipate that the Turks would control the Aegean border with the Greek islands to stop the flow of migrants there, and crack down on the smuggling rings running the trade. In practice, however, the flow of migrants has not been stopped, and the conditions for migrants in Turkey are not what was hoped for. There is no sign that there will be any serious steps taken against the smugglers operating inside Turkey.
Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos recently expressed his concern by saying, "I have a strong fear that Turkey's smugglers have the support of the authorities, who act like they have seen nothing. ... There are even cases where the smugglers are helped. We have evidence."
Migrants set sail on an inflatable boat from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, August 25, 2015. (Image source: Reuters video screenshot)
The circumstances in which the refugees are living also remain unsatisfactory despite the considerable sum Turkey received to improve the migrants' quality of life. One report states that,
"Temporary protection does not grant refugees permission to work and to qualify for temporary protection, all refugees must live in 'satellite towns' outside the main, cosmopolitan cities such as Istanbul. They must submit to controls and conditions and report once a week to the satellite cities they are allocated to. They do not receive any state support for accommodation or daily expenses so, without independent means, refugees are pushed towards living and working illegally."
The conditions for migrants in Turkey are provoking them to leave and risk their lives in a quest for safety in Greece. Human Rights Watch, in its 2016 report, wrote,
"A lack of effective protection in Turkey for Syrians and others, existing border restrictions with Syria imposed by Turkey, and Turkey's record of police abuse gave rise to concerns that the deal could deny people access to asylum, trap people in Syria, and lead to police abuse and detention of asylum seekers who try to travel to the Europe."
Greece is at the receiving end of the migrants across the sea. If Turkey does not control the migrant flow, there is little that Greece can do once the refugees have arrived in its borders. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said, "Smuggling networks are still in full operation... The deportation of migrants who have traveled from Turkey is also a big problem."
Although purportedly Turkey is a secular state, 99.8% of its people are officially registered as Muslim, mostly Sunni. Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS), Al Nusra and Al-Qaeda come from the same sect of Islam. Some people believe that many Turkish officials sympathize with Sunni terrorist groups such as ISIS and that perhaps this partiality has an effect on their handling of the refugee crisis.
In 2014, amateur video footage appeared revealing Islamic State terrorists chatting with a group of Turkish border guards near the besieged Syrian city of Kobane. A report says, "The amateur footage, understood to have been filmed close to Zarova Hill in the outskirts of Kobane, raises serious questions about the apparently relaxed relationship between the terror group and officials from the Nato member state." This raises concerns about the future of negotiations between Turkey and the EU.
Turkey, after the attempted coup in July, is expected to become increasingly Islamist. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after he finishes purging thousands of those he seems to regard as opponents, appears to be reaching for powers that are strictly Islamist, as well as totalitarian -- possibly "Sultan for Life." Already, homosexual conduct is punishable by imprisonment.
It is doubtful that Turkey will hold up its end of the EU migrant deal anytime soon.