Brussels/Istanbul: Against the background of the ongoing conflict in Syria and Afghanistan, the number of immigrants intruding into Europe through Turkey has increased significantly. In 2019, a whopping 82,000 illegal immigrants entered Europe from Turkey. This is an increase of 46% as compared to the illegal immigrants that came to Europe from Turkey in 2018. As the European Union and Turkey have an agreement in place, on the issue of the immigrants, this massive illegal immigrant entry raises questions on the Turkish role.
Over the last few years, relations between Turkey and the European Union have been deteriorating mainly because of the military mutiny crushed by President Erdogan, action against the Kurds and the support given by Turkey to the extremist groups in Europe. On the other hand, Turkey has accused the European Union of not fulfilling the promises given to it, regarding the European Union membership. The Turkish President, time and again, raises the baton of illegal immigrants for extracting support from the European countries.
At the beginning of the last year, President Erdogan had threatened, ‘Turkey should be given credit for the peace prevailing in Europe. Europe is safe as Turkey has accommodated 4 million immigrants. If the European Union and the international community does not provide the necessary assistance to Turkey, we will once again open the flood gates for immigrant entry into Europe.’ At the same time, he had warned that Turkey alone could not carry the burden of Syrian immigrants. Against the background of this threat, the increase in immigrant influx in Europe becomes significant.
Nearly 56,000 illegal immigrants entered Europe in 2018. But against the background of the tension between the European Union and Turkey, this number has increased by 46%. Frontex, a European agency, had informed that the total number of illegal immigrants entering Europe from Turkey in 2019 was nearly 82,000. At the same time, the Frontex had stated that 1,39,000 illegal immigrants from the African countries had entered Europe.
Although the number seems to be smaller than the influx that started in 2014, the increasing number of illegal immigrants entering through Turkey has become a new cause of headache for the European Union. Most of the illegal immigrants who enter through Turkey settle in Greece, and Greece has no capacity to accommodate any more immigrants. Despite repeated requests, the European Union has not provided the necessary assistance to Greece, and now the other European countries too have decided to close their borders for immigrants.
Given the ongoing conflict in Syria and the increasing tension between the European Union and Turkey, there are indications that the number of illegal immigrants is likely to increase further.