Turkey’s Foreign Minister has suggested directing tens of thousands of migrants to the European Union (EU) as a form of retaliation for European leaders blocking his government holding rallies in their countries.
“We have a readmission deal. I’m telling you Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we’ll send the 15,000 refugees to you that we don’t send each month and blow your mind,” said Süleyman Soylu on Thursday evening.
“You have to keep in mind that you can’t design a game in this region in spite of Turkey,” Mr. Soylu added, according to a translation by Hurriyet Daily News.
The “deal” referred to by Mr. Soylu was struck almost exactly a year ago with the EU. Turkey promised to stem the flow of Middle Eastern migrants entering Europe in exchange for billions in aid and accelerated visa-free travel for its citizens in the bloc.
The “games” he claims are being played are attempts by European leaders to stop Turkish ministers leading rallies in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expanding his power in an up-and-coming referendum.
Millions of people living in Europe with dual Turkish citizenship are eligible to vote, and Mr. Erdoğan is keen to rally their support.
However, some German districts stopped rallies going ahead, and the Netherlands imposed a blanket ban and even blocked a Turkish minister’s plane from landing to stop him attending. Mr. Erdoğan accused the Dutch of acting like “Nazis” in response.
“Who are the main ones trying to get things done? Germany and the Netherlands. Are the elections going to be held in Germany? Will the charter change in Germany or the Netherlands?” Mr. Soylu said.
Continuing: “This is our internal issue. What do you care? Why are you getting involved in it? Did you accept Turkey into the European Union? Did you provide support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism?”
“There are games being played against Turkey in order to prevent it from becoming strong in the future,” he added.
Mr. Erdoğan and his government have been threatening to “flood” Europe with migrants long before the deal with the EU was even signed.
On 11 January last year, Mr. Erdoğan promised to “open the gates” to hundreds of thousands of migrants who could be transported into Europe by “bus” and even “plane” unless his demands were met in the lead up to the negotiations.