Turkey cynically pushes migrants toward coronavirus-hit Europe

Fanning the flames of Europe’s coronavirus crisis, Turkey has been encouraging Syrian refugees, who lack health care, to congregate on the Greek border

Turkey has exploited the coronavirus crises to try to push migrants and refugees to Europe over the last few weeks.

European countries have been paying Ankara billions since 2015 to keep Syrian refugees in Turkey, but it opened the border with Greece and began encouraging migrants to storm the Greek border after Turkey lost soldiers in Idlib.

Turkey sought to distract from its losses in Idlib by creating a migrant crisis on the Greek border. In recent weeks, Turkish media have pushed populist messages of Turkish troops aiming rifles at Greece and Turkish drones flying over the border, while Ankara demands Berlin and Paris provide more cash to Turkey.

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The misery of migrants at the border has now been compounded by coronavirus fears. While Turkey’s initial agenda was to distract from a crisis in Idlib, where a Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive was pressing up against Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, the crisis on the Greek border now has a life of its own. International media, often wary of reporting in Turkey where dozens of journalists have been jailed, have come to report. Human rights groups have spotlighted Greece’s firing of tear gas and detaining of migrants.

The larger picture is that there are around four million Syrian refugees in Turkey. After hosting them for years, Turkey began coercing them in 2015 to go to Europe. In 2018, Ankara stopped accepting asylum seeker requests. Human Rights Watch slammed Turkey for unlawful deportations, coercing poor Syrians to return to conflict-ridden Syria, and denying health care.

Read more: jpost