Turkey unwilling to target refugee traffickers, experts warn

Turkish coast guard vessels. [Harold Litwiler/Flickr]

Senior experts said today (17 February) that unless Turkey starts targeting the mafias helping migrants cross into Europe, the worsening refugee crisis could push the British to vote to leave the Union, and bring about other disastrous consequences.

Speaking at a press event organised by Carnegie Europe, its director, Ian Techau, said that he heard at the Munich Security Conference some British colleagues voicing exasperation over the refugee crisis, which was souring the mood in Britain ahead of the Brexit referendum, expected in June.

Against the background of the refugee crisis, it now looks like there is a 70% chance for vote to leave the EU, he said.

“There was some sort of rumour going around at the Security conference that the Euro crisis was bad enough, but the refugee crisis kind of convinced people in Britain this is now the time to leave the bloody place”, Techau said.

The pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel is higher than most people realise, Techau said, adding that she desperately needed “to bring something home” from the EU summit which starts later today. This in fact, he said, was “the decisive drama” of the summit.

“There is a very bad atmosphere inside her own party group,” Techau said, which in his view explained why she had moved away from the big pan-European solution she advocated for so long, and expected solutions from a “coalition of the willing”, including the Turks.

For Merkel, the mini-summit with Turkey and 10 other “like-minded countries” was more important than the summit itself, the Director of Carnegie Europe said. Merkel and 10 other leaders are expected to meet tomorrow in the Austrian Permanent Representation together with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

Davutoglu to meet with 11 ‘like-minded’ EU countries

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has invited the heads of state and government of ten member states to attend a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on 18 February, in Brussels.

“If she can find enough countries to agree on this kind of resettlement issue with the Turks, that’s the kind of thing she needs more than anything else,” he said. In the event of success at the mini-summit, he stated there would be some sort of formulation in the Council conclusions which would make a distinction between asylum-seekers and refugees. The idea is that migrants not eligible for asylum should be readmitted to Turkey.

Marc Pierini, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, said Turkey did “nothing” against the €2-billion business of human trafficking, and this was the reason why ideas to involve NATO in managing the refugee crisis were more of a gimmick than anything else. A land-based operation against traffickers in Turkey were the answer, he said.

Turkey and Greece seek NATO mission in Aegean, German official says

Turkey and Greece have agreed to ask for a NATO mission to monitor refugee flows in the Aegean Sea and combat people smugglers, a senior German government official said late yesterday (10 February).

Pierrini said the NATO operation would help the Western allies monitor the operations of the Turkish authorities against the traffickers.

“The difference it would make, is that having reconnaissance aircraft and intelligence gathering ships off the coast of Turkey will enable NATO to monitor what the Turkish authorities are doing, especially the communications between the central command and the coast guard, and there, it may become evident that they are not necessarily doing much,” he said.

Pierrini explained that 85% of the two million refugees in Turkey were not in camps, but were living in cities, thanks to their lifetime savings or to money received from relatives already living in the West.  He said that the camps for refugees were just for “showcase”, so that people like EU foreign affairs chief Mogherini are taken there.

The Turkish police, and city officials were perfectly aware of the trafficking, with cameras on market places filming the payments in cash, he said.

“This is a lot of money,” he continued, adding that the authorities were only happy to see it flow into the Turkish economy, also as a compensation for the loss of tourists.

“This is not to say that each and every captain or gendarme is pocketing money, not necessarily, it’s just [money] flowing into the economy”, he said, adding “and centrally it is seen by the authorities in Ankara as a way to pressure the EU”.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the outflow of refugees, in return for €3 billion in financial assistance.

The EU on 3 February finally reached an agreement on how to finance the deal.


  • 18 February, 12.00 Brussels time: mini-summit with EU "like minded countries" and Turkey, in the Austrian Permanent Representation to the EU.
  • 18 February, 17.00 Brussels time: EU summit begins, with Brexit and migration crisis on the menu.


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