Turkey opened its borders after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011. Nearly two million refugees are currently registered in the country, of which about 200,000 are housed in official camps, mostly in the south. A growing number are seeking a better life in the EU and are crossing over to Greece by the thousand every day, causing severe anxiety in parts of Europe and creating tensions along borders farther north.
EU leaders have turned to the Turkish government for help to stem the flow of migrants.
Instead Turkey calls for the establishment of a security zone along the border in northern Syria where refugees could be resettled. This would require clearing the area of Islamic State [ISIS] fighters and, Ankara suggests, handing control to moderate Syrian opposition groups.
The plan would neatly serve Turkey’s separate aim of reducing the influence of Syrian Kurdish fighters. Many Turks are more worried about Kurdish rebels than IS. Yet Germany’s Angela Merkel has expressed doubts that the refugees’ safety could be secured inside Syria. Not entirely by coincidence, the Turkish authorities have generally turned a blind eye to the refugee flow to Europe, though they have repeatedly prevented refugees from crossing the land border to Bulgaria and Greece and driven them back into Turkey.
FROM the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey the Greek island of Kos is only four kilometres [2.5 miles] away. European tourists can make the 45-minute crossing comfortably for £12.50, while those fleeing evil in Syria and elsewhere must pay smugglers a minimum of $1,000 for a perilous night journey in a crowded boat.
There are so many separate issues in this zone it is a wonder that anyone knows what is going on.