On Monday, the European Union began transporting refugees to Turkey, promising that the forced deportations will intensify. Many view this activity as a modern version of the slave trade, a human-trafficking operation by the EU, with a complicit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exploiting and extorting refugees by using a tiered hierarchy of preferential status, based on workers’ skillsets, regardless of humanitarian need.
Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down on Friday with Turkish journalist Kemal Okuyan to discuss the agreement between the EU and Turkey, amid widespread criticism from human rights organizations that EU officials are ignoring human rights abuses and cynically exploiting refugees.
Is the EU agreement with Turkey to deport refugees even legal?
"It is not legal or ethical," said Okuyan. "It is against human rights and EU regulations, it is against UN regulations, it is even against the national laws here in Turkey and even in Germany."
Okuyan expressed concern that the agreement between the EU and Turkey amounts to little more than modern-day slavery. "We can’t say this is not human trading, the EU is essentially operating a slave market. The EU started choosing people, not what the people really need, but the people that the EU needs, they choose the skills and nationalities."
The journalist believes that handpicking those who will receive asylum-seeker benefits guaranteed under international law will not solve the problem. Rather, he states, immediate action must be taken to improve conditions within Syria. "This is not a solution. The only solution is to end the bloody war in Syria."
The UNHCR has criticized the plan as a human rights violation – the collective expulsion of refugees is prohibited by European and international law – but what is the mechanism for this plan?
"The mechanism is what they call the market economy,” explained Okuyan. “Nobody cares about anything and it is completely illegal."
The journalist explained that countries are ignoring their human rights obligations under international law, and exploiting the tragedy for their own gain. "It is the same inside Turkey with the businessmen collecting healthy, skilled workers from the camps while those in need are ignored. This is a non-ethical rule."
How many of the refugees transit through Turkey?
"Most of them come through Turkey — close to three million," said Okuyan. "The numbers staying in Turkey have dropped substantially, though, and today there are more than 1.5 million refugees already in Europe being rounded up. It’s a real human tragedy."
The journalist explained that the situation is compounded by the continuing civil war in Syria, spilling over into the surrounding regions and causing even more people to flee. Along with Syrians there is a large population of Afghani and Pakistani refugees who fled conflicts in recent years who are also now trying to make their way into Europe.
What does the Turkish government want from this questionable deal with the EU?
"Erdogan’s first aim is to blackmail the EU to show that, if they don’t support his repressive domestic policy, then the flow of refugees will increase," said Okuyan. "Everyone in Europe speaks about how the EU leaders are hypocrites and cowards because they know the reason for the human traffic is war, slavery, and rape, but they accept the blackmail of Erdogan."
Okuyan explained that the Turkish government greatly benefits from the ongoing civil war in Syria. "Erdogan is a businessman who wants money which will be used for a budget deficit – that’s in the agreement with Europe." Not only does Turkey receive compensation for taking in refugees, but also Turkey has "profited from the petro trade with Daesh and from the money Syrian refugees bring with them."
Okuyan noted that, while the EU-Turkey deal regarding the refugee crisis assumes that funds provided by the alliance will go to benefit Syrian refugees in Turkey, "we know that the Erdogan government will not use the money they receive from the EU towards the immigrants and who is going to check?"