Turkey Accused of ‘Fanning Flames’ of Europe Coronavirus Crisis by Pushing Migrants to Border

ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

Turkey has been accused of “Fanning the flames of Europe’s coronavirus crisis” by crowding migrants onto its frontier with Greece.

Seth J Frantzman, a U.S.-born academic and Middle East affairs analyst with The Jerusalem Post, said that the Turkish government had “sought to distract from its losses in [the Syrian province of] Idlib by creating a migrant crisis on the Greek border”, abetted by Turkish media pushing “populist messages of Turkish troops aiming rifles at Greece and Turkish drones flying over the border“.

Dr Frantzman warned that Turkey’s “denial of health care” to migrants — an accusation he sources to Human Rights Watch — had taken on “added dimensions amid the coronavirus pandemic”, particularly given a previous admission by Turkish officials that preventing the virus’s spread through migrant encampments was “Mission: Impossible”.

Turkey, Frantzman said, was “shoehorning refugees into Europe at a time when Europe is suffering a pandemic” and encouraging them to “gather in crowds” to try and storm the border at a time when people the world over are being urged to practise social distancing — while taking drastic measures to protect its own borders.

Unlike countries like the United Kingdom, Turkey has made extensive use of travel bans to try and slow the spread of the virus — only a handful of cases have been officially confirmed in the country — with flights from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain halted on top of previous bans on China, South Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Italy.

Turkey has also closed down its border with Georgia and restricted travel from Azerbaijan, among other measures, and is seeking to evacuate residents of the client state of Northern Cyprus — an unrecognised state carved off the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus after Turkey invaded and illegally occupied the island nation’s north in 1974 — from the European mainland.

The Turkish government, Frantzman observed, is implementing these stringent border control measures — in addition to stopping more Syrians from entering its territory at the border wall it has built along its southern frontier with their homeland — “while encouraging Syrians to leave for Europe and opening the border for Greece just so they will leave”.

Franzman said he believes the “cynical” strategy is aimed at destabilising the European Union and coercing its leaders to “give Turkey more money so it will close the border” — but that, in the meantime, “the situation on the border with Turkey and Greece now may fan the flames of the virus.”

A cargo ship carrying almost 200 migrants, thought to have set sail from Turkey, ran aground on a Greek island near Athens on the morning of March 16th.

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