More than a million migrants crossed into Europe through irregular means in 2015. Nearly 35,000 people arrived in the first two months of this year and, according to International Monetary Fund’s forecast, around 4 million more could reach the continent by the end of 2017.
As if settlement of incoming migrants wasn’t difficult enough, incidents like Paris attacks and Cologne’s mass sexual assaults further fueled anti-refugee sentiment across Europe.
For almost a year now, European Union leaders have been in a fix over what could be the possible solution to what has been described as the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
In fact, they are so desperate to stem the flow of migrants that they decided to close their eyes to the rampant abuse of human rights in Turkey.
As per a draft statement prepared during the latest EU summit held in Brussels, the 28-member union has agreed to pay Ankara billions of dollars in aid and other benefits in exchange for taking back all refugees and migrants who entered Greece via Turkey.
While the final decision is pending, so far it sounds like a win-win situation for the EU and Turkey. The biggest losers, of course, remain the asylum-seekers as well as the people facing widespread rights abuses under Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Case in point: A few hours ahead of the summit in Brussels, Turkish police clashed with International Women’s Day protesters in Istanbul. Riot police dispersed women with rubber bullets and tear gas.
And this was just one instance. The state of human rights has rapidly deteriorated under Erdogan’s rule. Free speech has come under increased attack recently in Turkey.
Hundreds of Turkish human rights activists, academics and journalists were arrested and prosecuted over the past couple of months.
The EU, according to a February ABC News report, labeled it a “serious backsliding” on freedom of expression — but in less than a month agreed to ignore the problem just so it could strike a deal to stop the influx of refugees.
It appears Europe is ready to overlook human rights violations as long as its borders are secure.
Talks on the plan will continue ahead of an EU meeting on March 17-18.