Refugee masses on EU border a boon for Europe’s far right – opinion

Turkey’s move to open its land border with Greece to refugees will be a lever for far-right parties in Europe’s upcoming elections, journalist Esmé O’Keeffe wrote in an op-ed to British news outlet The Independent on Tuesday.

“The prospect of another ‘migrant crisis’ such as in 2015 is a gift to sensationalist populist propaganda,” O’Keeffe said. “With local elections in France, and regional elections in Germany and Austria coming up in March, the current crisis risks fuelling far-right fires.”

More than 10,000 migrants have reached Turkey's land borders with Greece since Turkey said last Thursday it would no longer stop them from trying to leave. Greek authorities stepped up land and sea border security in a bid to prevent the influx and clashes erupted with Greek police using tear gas against the migrants.

The move by Turkish authorities came after the escalating conflict in neighbouring Syria’s Idlib province left at least 36 Turkish troops the same day.

“(Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) may well have gone too far” in an attempt to pressure the EU into greater support for refugee relief and Turkey’s military operation in Syria’s Idlib province against the Syrian government and Russia, O’Keeffe wrote.

“In a bid to be taken seriously and fed up with what he perceives as the EU’s empty promises, Erdogan has targeted one of the bloc’s sorest points: its borders,” she said.

Turkey currently hosts an estimated 3.7 million asylum seekers from Syria, but most of those who arrived on the Greek border are thought to be irregular migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, who are in danger of being deported.

Although Turkey has been struggling to give asylum to refugees fleeing from conflicts and hostile environments, O’Keeffe wrote, “Erdoğan is wrong to leverage refugees in his attempts to twist Europe’s arm.”

“The international community must condemn the Turkish president’s use of migrants as pawns in his great game of geopolitical chess,” she wrote.