Turkey’s threat to unleash refugee wave on Europe could be real - New York Times

The sharp increase in refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey in August suggests Ankara has some control over the level of migration, and that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threat to open the gates for migrants to Europe may be legitimate, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. 

Last week, Erdoğan warned that if too many refugees arrived in Turkey, “there will be no solution left but to open the gates”. Some 10,000 migrants arrived in Greece in August, little compared to the 210,000 arrivals in October 2015, but a significant increase from previous months. 

“The August increase shows this may not be an idle threat,” said Times’ reporter Patrick Kingsley, pointing to Aug. 29, when nearly 550 migrants arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos. “The fact that Turkish smugglers were able to gather so many people on Aug. 29 and send them to Greece in such quick succession has raised questions about Turkish state complicity.”

Turkey’s Coast Guard did not respond to repeated requests for intervention by their Greek counterparts, according to  migrant assistance organisation Refugee Rescue, and Turkish vessels continued their patrols in the morning in August, even as smugglers sent migrant boats in the afternoon. 

“What we found weird was that this was a trend, and they didn’t change the way they operated to try to stop this,” Finn Sands-Robinson of Refugee Rescue told Kingsley. 

Allowing refugees to enter Turkey and use the country as a launch pad to go to Europe might be politically risky for Erdoğan, but if Turkey makes life untenable for refugees, or relaxes efforts to keep them out of Europe, the effect could be dramatic, according to the Times.  

Turkey is hosting 3.6 million registered Syrians and a million asylum-seekers from other countries. Meanwhile, Turkey is under the risk of a new massive refugee inflow due to the Syrian government’s advance in Idlib, which has driven half a million people to flee toward the Turkish border.