Protesters outside a newspaper office in Istanbul on Saturday after police officers fired tear gas. Credit Ozan Kose/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The contrast was jarring: Just days after the police broke into the offices of an opposition newspaper using tear gas and water cannons, Turkey’s prime minister was greeted in Brussels with offers of billions in aid, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe and renewed prospects for joining the European Union.
The juxtaposition highlighted the conundrum Europe faces as it seeks solutions to its worst refugee crisis since World War II. To win Turkey’s desperately needed assistance in stemming the flow of migrants to the Continent, European officials seem prepared to ignore what critics say is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s steady march toward authoritarianism. – The New York Times, ”E.U. Woos Turkey for Refugee Help, Ignoring Rights Crackdown”.
The only objective of European leaders is thus clearly stopping migrants. At any cost. At any financial cost. At any political cost resulting from endorsing an increasingly undemocratic regime. At any human cost to the migrants. All this to assuage the European electorates who are fired up against migrants by nationalist populist discourses.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo: Legnan Koula/EPA
Seeing how political leaders are haggling over human lives as if they were boxes, and deciding arbitrarily that half the Syrian refugees are not deserving of European protection, while covertly accepting that Turkey is a safe country to which they can be returned, is nauseating.
Turkey “is waging war on an ethnic minority, its riot police just stormed the offices of a major newspaper, its secret service faces allegations of arming Isis and its military shot down a Russian bomber” (The Guardian, Can a Turkey sliding into despotism and censorship still join the EU? The answer must be no): how can it be a safe country for Syrian refugees, when Greece was declared by European courts not to be a safe country for refugees? Are we going to have to wait years until European courts are called to intervene to see that this kind of deal is unacceptable?
Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana Credit Darron Cummings/Associated Press
A federal district judge in Indianapolis [blocked] the attempt by Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana to cut off federal resettlement funds for Syrian refugees who had passed a vetting process that took up to two years. Mr. Pence’s order was unconstitutional and “clearly discriminates” against Syrians compared with other refugees, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in a suit brought by a nonprofit resettlement agency. The judge found that Mr. Pence’s move to withhold resettlement funds was “in no way” justified by his claim that his main concern was the safety of Indiana residents.
The ruling delivered a jolt of reality to the xenophobic politics now inflaming the presidential primary campaign. – The New York Times, ”A Judge’s Message to the Xenophobes”.
This judgement is a great example of why we need an independent and competent judiciary. One commentator mentioned that, if the law was on the judge’s side, the people are largely on Trump’s side. What was implied was that, if a majority of Americans agreed with Trump, then Trump must be right. Isn’t this exactly the reason why independent judges are necessary?
A Canadian ship transits into Souda Bay, Greece, on February 6, 2016. Photo: Corporal Anthony Chand.
The opinion piece written by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is the official confirmation that migrants rescued at sea by NATO assets will be repatriated to Turkey: no mention of whether Turkey is a safe place of return for individual migrants and refugees.
Repeating that the operations will be conducted in accordance with international law will not make it so. The international law referred to seems to include only the principle of territorial sovereignty. International human rights law is not mentioned, and the fact that migrants have rights not acknowledged.
Afghan children sit between tents at a relocation centre for migrants and refugees near Athens. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
The unravelling of European trust, solidarity and consensus is spectacular. Time magazine reported that ”tensions are flaring between European powers” while the French newspaper Le Monde described the EU interior ministers meeting in Brussels as a complete failure.
Panic time is the worst time for making structural decisions with a long-term vision.
Indeed, what we are witnessing is a fire sale of everything that made the EU a “common territory”.
It is now clear that NATO will be used to push back migrants from Greece to Turkey. Greece was deemed not a safe country for Dublin refugee returns after the European Court of Human Rights MSS decision, and push backs to Libya were condemned by the Hirsi decision. Yet, it now seems perfectly acceptable to everyone that refugees will be pushed back from Greek waters to Turkey.