Having come to stay – A change in Turkey’s immigration policy?
With the EU and Turkey having agreed on a common action pan in December, the political will to change the course in the refugee crisis seems to have materialized in an agreement that might be beneficial for both actors. For Turkey a rapprochement with the EU comes at a time when it stands relatively isolated in the international arena, as both the relationship with Russia and the brief regional powerbroker role that Turkey had in the Middle East lie shattered. While it might be a positive development that the EU and Turkey revitalize their relationship, it seems like an anachronistic policy that does not really match the current domestic situations in both geographies. The EU is facing its biggest crisis since its creation: Greece might leave the Euro-zone and through that start a motion that might shatter the common currency; the UK might hold a referendum that would mean leaving the EU altogether; right-wing xenophobic parties are on the rise and weaken the union from within and the refugee crisis has brought the level of disagreement between EU members into the limelight. Not only is it unclear if the EU is in any position to admit new members even in the medium term, it is also unclear if a Turkey which leads a war in the south-east, limits democratic rights of the population and cracks down on oppositional media is really interested in undergoing the EU’s scrutiny.
In any case, we should not forget that the deal forged between the EU and Turkey might have been made on the backs of the refugee population in Turkey. Reports from human rights organizations on detention and push-backs of refugees captured by Turkish authorities seem to confirm that. The EU, eager to have Turkey limit the number of refugees who reach the Greek shore, is willing to pay three billion euro, but is very hesitant to specify what will happen with the refugees caught while crossing the Aegean sea. Imprisoning them or pushing them back to Syria is illegal under international law. It remains to be seen, if the EU is willing to accept such practices, just to be free of further refugees reaching its own borders.
In the end, fleeing to the EU’s shores will always be more attractive for refugees than staying in Turkey, where even those from Iraq and Syria who have a legal status see often relatively little chance to establish a future perspective for them and their families. For this to happen, Turkey will have to invest heavily into a new integration policy. This is not only a challenge financially and politically, it will also be a challenge to the societal narrative that is based on neglecting diversity even within the current Turkish society.
Knowing that the refugee crisis will continue to be on top of the Turkish agenda not only in terms of Turkey-EU relations, but also with regard to the country’s domestic and regional policies, we gave wide coverage to the issue in this Alternatif. Göksun Yazıcı, Ezgi Koman and Kemal Vural Tarlan have made valuable contributions in illustrating the current situation with their analyses on different aspects of the refugee crisis. Jens Siegert’s article elaborates on the recent tension between Russia and Turkey following the downing of a Russian SU-24 bomber on the Turkish-Syrian border by a Turkish warplane within a broader historical and political context. In this issue, you will also read an interview with Bekir Ağırdır, General Manager of KONDA, about the November election with a special emphasis on the “failure” of pre-election polls, and the political implications of the unexpected election results. The results obviously will remain on the agenda in the coming months concerning first and foremost the fate of the peace process. In the hope of having prepared an interesting and insightful issue of Alternatif, we like to wish all our readers a happy and productive new year.
On behalf of the Alternatif team,