Ankara has powerful leverage over refugee influx into Europe - VOA

Turkey has a powerful leverage over Europe in relation to the recent rise in the number of migrants entering Greece from Turkey, which coincided with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threats to open borders unless the European Union keeps its word on a 2016 migrant pact, the Voice of America reported on Friday, citing analysts. 

"Europeans are scared stiff of another possible influx of refugees," VOA quoted Soli Özel, an international relations lecturer at Istanbul's Kadir Has University, as saying. "Straight after Erdoğan spoke about opening borders, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel called Erdoğan. What Ankara wants is money.”

Senior German and European Union officials met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Friday in Ankara to discuss the exacerbating humanitarian crisis due to recent migrant influx to Greece. According to the United Nations, 9,000 migrants entered Greece from Turkey in September, bringing the total to more than 40,000 since the start of the year, VOA said.

Under the 2016 deal to control migration, the EU pledged a $6.5 billion assistance to help Ankara host 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the country. Erdoğan accuses the EU of failing to honour its financial commitments since the EU had paid only $2.4 billion to Turkey as of June.

Erdoğan has also been trying to ease the domestic pressure of escalating anti-refugee sentiments, while Turkey is under the risk of a new massive refugee influx from Syria due to Syrian government’s military assault on rebel-controlled Idlib, which is home to 3 million people according to UN figures.

"Many people in Turkey are already very unhappy with the nearly 4 million refugees," said Professor Mesut Caşin, an Erdoğan adviser. "If more millions [refugees] come from Idlib, Turkey cannot take any more, as Mr. Erdoğan said Turkey would open the border to Europe. The refugee problem is not just Turkey's problem, but Europe’s."

"Domesticity is a huge problem. This is a huge problem for Erdogan. This is what is called chickens coming from home to roost," said Özel. "My understanding is, anywhere in the country where there is a concentration of Syrians is like a tinderbox. I was just with people who work in the municipalities of Hatay and Antep [Turkish cities bordering Syria]. They are really scared that something is just going to explode.”