Brexit: No, Turkey Is Not Coming

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage looks on during a debate on the outcome of the 7 March EU-Turkey Summit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on March 9, 2016. / AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Britons will soon be heading to polls to make a crucial decision for the future of their country – as well as the future of the European Union. The economy argument has been among the loudest ones heard and is a legitimate one to make, but polls show that it is in fact immigration, rather than economy that is the bigger concern for referendum goers. This has certainly been facilitated by the refugee crisis-stricken Europe opening borders and then trying to deal with the consequences with what seems little foresight.

In a speech in European Parliament late last year, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and supporter of Brexit, made an analogy of Germany accepting refugees as opening a champagne cork and later trying to put it back in. He believes that the Turkey-EU deal is an exploitation of the union’s weaknesses and that Turkey is conducting blackmail to gain visa-free travel rights without any guarantee that they would help the refugee flow.

Months later, the agreement was put in place and the number of migrants has decreased sharply. This proves that to prompt legal migration, a deal had to be made. However, the terms were controversial. Turkey has been aiming at visa-free travel and EU accession talks for a long time and mixing it up with humanitarian problem solving – only making blackmail for both sides more likely, making the deal less fair.

It’s unlikely that Turkey will get the visa liberalisation deal, as Turkish president is against softening anti-terrorism laws that EU finds undemocratic. The new Turkish government will not seek many compromises, since EU hasn’t delivered on their promises either — Turkey hasn’t received the 3 billion funds for refugee relocation. Blind to this reality, Britain’s Vote Leave campaign has recently taken on the menacing narrative that Turkey is set to join EU very soon.

“To me, without any other debate, if it was one single reason why Britain should in this referendum vote to leave the European Union, it is the folly of political integration with Turkey. It is not only stupid, it is damn dangerous.” -Nigel Farage

UK citizens are extremely fearful about a massive influx of Turkish immigrants into EU and they shouldn’t be concerned because it probably won’t happen. The Vote Leave campaign claims that Turkey is set to join EU in a few years and open doors to 76 million Turks who will pose a great threat to the security and economy of UK (in an assumption that these are mainly poor people or criminals wanting to migrate). When in fact, a poll conducted by the campaign itself shows that only 16% would consider relocating to the UK. In a study carried out by the British government, little evidence was found of a statistically significant impact on EU migration on native employment.

Even if the refugee deal holds, the migration argument cannot be played because the UK is not part of Schengen zone, which will be affected by visa-free travel. Besides, it will give no residence rights. Turkey’s accession to EU is so highly unlikely that it shouldn’t even be part of the Brexit conversation. The basic admission criteria or the Copenhagen criteria, states that candidate countries have to be market economies, able to fulfil membership obligations and stable democracies.

“It is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress, they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000.” -David Cameron

Even if Turkey’s EU vote was on the agenda, the decision on the accession of a new member state has to be unanimous. The UK, as an EU member can veto it. Plus, they might not even be the only country veto-ing it. Greece has already done it before because of the disputes over Northern Cyprus and the control of Aegean Sea. Additionally – France and Germany hasn’t shown much support either.

Turkey shouldn’t be looked down upon, as it is the second largest member of NATO and plays an important geopolitical role mainly because of its size and location. Though, ts population size would give it too much political leverage that would significantly turn the power tides in European politics. It seems like Turkey would only put a strain on the relations between communities and endanger future cooperation between countries.

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The Migrant Problem in the EU

Almost 50,000 migrants arrived on the Greek islands from North Africa in July alone.. By mid-August, that number has reached 158,000. Germany, which receives the most asylum applications of the European Union, is expecting 800,000 refugees to come this year. Last year, 123,500 migrants were detected at Europe’s external borders – this year, there are 340,000 migrants.

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Those heading to Greece through the eastern Mediterranean route use a shorter voyage from the Turkish mainland to the islands of Kos, Chios, Lesvos and Samos. However, the journey from Libya to Italy is much longer and more dangerous.

We have been hearing of these shipwrecks all summer long. The International Organization for Migration reported that over 2,000 migrants have died so far this year. There are many reports of violence and abuse by people traffickers. Migrants are usually robbed, even though they have already paid their traffickers thousands of dollars.

Hungary is a major transit point. The country has asked the European Union not to send back migrants that have travelled through from Hungary, which is understandable when there were 34,000 migrants trying to cross into their border in July alone. They are planning to fence off the whole border with Serbia to help further prevent the problem.

So who are the migrants? Syrians are the largest migrant group by nationality, followed by Afghans, then Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia. The Syrian civil war has triggered this huge influx; meanwhile others are trying to escape human rights abuses and poverty. In the case of Somalia, migrants are fleeing from persecution. Migrants from Eritrea are mainly young men that are trying to avoid the compulsory military service, which is resembled to slavery.

Italy ended their search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum, in November of 2014 and replaced it by a smaller and cheaper operation with the European Union called Triton – it patrolled 30 nautical miles of its coast. Now aid organization are scaling down their rescue efforts as well. This has caused the European Union to recommit to the original spending of Mare Nostrum. However, with the economic climate gloomy, the European Union doesn’t seem to know how to decide who should allocate more spending.

There are rising tensions over the Dublin Regulation, the EU principle for handling asylum claims. It reads that the responsibility for examining the claim lies primarily with the member state that played the greatest part in the applicant’s entry or resident in the European Union, which is often the first country that they reached. Greece is complaining that there are too many applicants there and so far, Finland and Germany have ceased to send migrants back to Greece.

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Who gets in? Who has to leave? How will borders be controlled? There are still many unanswered questions.