One might have thought Europe had enough Muslim economic migrants and refugees. Well over a million crossed into the EU last year and they are currently entering at the rate of 70,000 a month. Some 1.3 million claims for asylum were lodged in 2015, principally by people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Yet at today’s EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, the EU is set to throw its doors open even wider, from this summer offering visa-free travel to 77 million Turks, 98 per cent of whom are Muslim. They will be able to travel freely across the Continent within the border-free zone of the 26-country Schengen area. The UK is not part of Schengen, but with a Turkish diaspora of 400,000 already in this country, the threat of a further surge in illegal immigration to the UK seems clear enough.
One might also think that the EU is about to embark on yet another episode of collective insanity. From the Cologne sex assaults on New Year’s Eve to the segregation of men and women in German swimming pools, the murder of a Swedish social worker at a migrant centre for under-age boys and appalling scenes at the “Jungle” encampment at Calais, no one can be in any doubt that Europe is being overwhelmed by its patent failure to tackle the migrant crisis.
Yet its leaders, including our own David Cameron, continue to mouth platitudes about their support for Turkish membership of the EU and – in the meantime – give their consent for a big step in this direction by offering visa-free travel rights to one of the biggest Muslim countries in the world. The prospect of yet more mayhem and illegal immigration is self-evident but no one appears ready to call a halt. Cameron continues to insist that EU membership makes Britain “stronger, safer and better off”.
A few politicians, such as Ukip’s Nigel Farage and the Conservative former minister David Davis, have spoken out against the move, highlighting the obvious security risks, not least with Europol warning that 5,000 jihadists are already on the loose across Europe. Farage has called it “stupid and dangerous” and urged Cameron to withdraw his support for Turkish membership of the EU, now being fast-tracked by Brussels.
Leading Tory supporters of Brexit – Michael Gove and Boris Johnson – on Sunday voiced fears that British membership of the EU was jeopardising national security. Gove said that the European Court of Justice had undermined the ability of UK intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist suspects and that the EU was responsible for the worst upsurge of the far right at any time since the 1930s. Johnson said EU rules were prejudicial to British security and the ability to deport terrorists.
But it would seem that Turkey has the EU over a barrel. The vast majority of the migrants pouring across Europe’s almost non-existent external borders emanate from Turkey – 123,000 of the 130,000 who arrived by sea so far this year set sail from Turkey. In return for visa-free travel, a new push towards Turkish membership of the EU and a cool 3 billion euros towards the cost of Turkey coping with its current 2.5 million refugees, Turkey is promising to get serious about stemming the migrant flow from its shores – and taking back migrants who have travelled from its beaches.
In short, if the EU wants to see at least a slowdown in the million plus migrants a year clamouring at its shores, it will have to bow to Turkish demands for the right of its citizens to travel freely across the Schengen area, only pausing when they glimpse the White Cliffs of Dover.
That at least is the “deal” to be debated at the Brussels summit today. It seems a very bad one from the point of view of Britain and the rest of the EU.
First, the security implications are horrendous. Turkey has a long and porous border with Syria and Iraq, the two countries representing the greatest terrorist threat to the Continent. Visa-free travel for Turks plays directtly into the hands of so-called Islamic State jihadists hellbent on causing further atrocities in European capitals. It is also home to a vicious separatist battle between Ankara and the breakaway Kurds.
Second, by no stretch of the imagination is Turkey a European country. Only 3 per cent of its landmass can in any way be regarded as part of Europe. Who are we going to admit to the EU next? Pakistan? Afghanistan? Libya?
Painful experience is teaching us that Muslim populations from the Middle East and beyond have little interest in or hope of integrating with Western predominantly secular societies. With demands for Sharia Law growing across the UK and elsewhere, this is hardly the time for us to be risking further sectarian conflict. We would be far better advised to concentrate on assimilating the large and growing populations of Muslims already living within our borders.
It does not have to be this way. The EU – or at least the navies of its bigger members – could blockade the Turkish coast, intercept and return boatloads of migrants and arrest the people smugglers. But that kind of robust and decisive action is beyond this make-believe superstate, which has remained supine in the face of the migrant invasion over the past year or more. Nor, with Putin’s Russia calling the shots at the source of the crisis in Syria, is there any sign of effective EU military intervention to stem the migrant tide – one that suits Putin, no friend of the EU, perfectly well. Moreover, the Kremlin, already angered by EU encroachment into Ukraine, will not look kindly on the idea of Nato member Turkey lying to its south eventually joining the European club.
The migrant crisis is ripping the EU apart, forcing member states to reintroduce ad hoc border controls and, as in the case of Hungary, build fences to keep out unwelcome newcomers. The immediate prospect of visa-free travel for nearly 80 million Turks across most of the EU and the ultimate destination of Turkish membership is yet another reason why Brexit makes so much sense.
(Image Courtesy: Freedom House, Flickr)