Rumours in Türkiye suggest large numbers of Syrian, Afghan, Kurdish and other people are planning to leave Türkiye, where they face serious danger to their lives and safety, and travel to the EU. It is vital that we are prepared for the way our governments will react, and are ready to demand better.
Reports in Türkiye suggest that a large number of Syrian and other people are planning to leave the state for its neighbours – effectively Greece and Bulgaria – in the short-term future.
Currently being talked about as a ‘convoy of light’ or ‘caravan’, the movement is a response to fears among Syrian people in Türkiye that the Turkish government is moving closer to a ‘rapprochement’ with the Assad regime, and that the country’s economic and political situation is leading to increased violence against them from the Turkish public, and from the Turkish government and opposition parties. In effect, even the election of a new government seems unlikely to reduce the risk of forced deportation to Syria where they will be tortured and possibly killed.
A large number of Turkish and Syrian Kurds plan to leave because of the Turkish government’s oppression and persecution of Kurdish people, while despite the Greek government’s claim that Türkiye is a ‘safe state’ for people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Somalia, the country does not in fact recognise their right to be considered refugees, and has been forcibly deporting them back to the dangers they fled.
Should the ‘convoy’ actually happen, we must expect an onslaught from Greece’s far-Right government, and its far-Right supporters, claiming that ‘Türkiye is instrumentalising refugees’ (this is not accurate. While the Turkish government does not much care about the refugees and their lives, they are not ‘using them’ to ‘attack the EU’), that it is not upholding its duties under international law (this is untrue: it is direct breach of international law to prevent people from leaving your country unless they are fleeing the criminal justice system).
In both cases, not only are the arguments untrue, they are also irrelevant: whatever the circumstances of their leaving, the legal responsibility of the Greek government and wider EU is to allow people to enter and apply for asylum. This is arguably even more the case if their allegations against Türkiye were true: if the Turkish government were to threaten people and force them to leave, refusing them entry or pushing them back would be even worse than if no such threats and demands had been made.
The third argument will be a claim that these people are somehow ‘illegal’. We must simply stress that it is absolutely legal to travel to and enter the country of your choice in order to apply for asylum.
One reporter, with grim accuracy, said:
‘I fear the “convoy of light” will become a very dark chapter in humanity. Frontex won’t consider either the deteriorating living conditions in Syria or the increasing Turkish violent racism against Syrians or normalisation with Assad more than EU’s security.’
We must stress: the legal and the moral thing to do should this convoy materialise, is welcome people, help them enter the legal system and consider their asylum applications with seriousness, care, and efficiency.
To do anything else would not only be illegal, it will lead to chaos, and death, which will impact and affect us all, and of which we should be ashamed.