Turkish Government and the 3.7 millions of Syrians
According to philosopher Baruch Spinoza, there is no absolute meaning of what is "good" or "bad", it all has to do with the definitions we give to these notions, and as those definitions stem from human beings, they tend to be non accurate and illusional. We live in a world where "necessity" gives a pre-fixed meaning to it, and thus, the notions of "good" and "bad", play no role in this context. The world we live in, seems to be flawed, due to our limited apprehension.
Ofourse "good" and "bad" can never have any absolute meaning, but what will be next, in a world that tends to falsely identify the non absolute meaning of these two notions, with the lack of responsibility, in issues that have to do with human rights and human welfare...?
Ofcourse the "Ethics" of Spinoza never implied non responsibility, or lack of human initiative on social and political issues, only due to the fact that "good" and "bad" are two notions we cannot describe accurately, and freed from connotations that involve human thinking.
But this, is exactly what happened to international politics. Noone seems to take responsibility for human lives. Most trivial argument, in matters that are related to refugees and immigrants, seems to be the fact that "As a state we cannot handle more of them..." And of course it is true, if one considers the huge amount of refugees entering specific countries such as Greece, or Italy for example, and the rest of the countries staying intact from this reality. But, noone ever made a priority human lives, when it comes to states' capability of affording refugees and immigrants. And what usually happens is that discussions cease, at the point when countries need to coordinate this hot topic between them, and as there is no easy way to settle to an arrangement with quotas per country, as to how many refugees each one can invite, human lives remain on hold.
This is exactly the game played by the Turkish Government at the moment. Turkey is home to more than 3.7 million Syrians, and although they use them as an extremely cheap workforce, they also use them as a "diplomatic exit", whenever they need more assets from the EU.
At the end of February 2020, when Erdogan announced the opening of borders with Greece, so that migrants and refugees could pass in european territory, many people reached the borders, which they found closed. Turkish police, drove people to a river separating the two countries, and told them to cross by boat, threatening them with batons. Greek guards, prohibited their access, and sent them back to Turkey. By the time they were back, most of them had nothing. They became jobless, they had ran out of money, and they had nothing left.
With the pandemic of Covid-19 taking an enormously heavy toll in human lives, there is no more vulnerable group of people, than the refugees and immigrants. After suspending all international flights, closing schools, cancelling communal prayers at mosques, imposing a curfew, and recording serioulsy increased incidents of Covid-19 every day, Turkey is heading to a summer, without any income in tourism sector. Their exports also recorded a downfall of 18% in March 2020, compared to March of 2019.
The vast majority of those 3.7 million Syrians working in Turkey, after making it home for almost a decade now, are informal workers. Only 3% of them according to surveys, have official work permits. They get hired, as the most cheap workforce and they are the most vulnerable ones. The rate of unemployment in Turkey, was last known to be 14%, but considering the current crisis of the pandemic, and the financial crisis that this inevitably involves, the unemployment rate will easily go higher than 20%, only during summer period, and that will firstly affect the refugees once again.
The Turkish government, gave a 15bn dollars package, to permit the affected businessess to recover. The government also passed a law that prohibited companies to dismiss workers, for the next months. But none of these measures they took, applied to refugees or immigrants.
Back in 2015, Turkey was funded by the EU, with 6bn dollars, for giving its concensus in being the home of all these refugees, and preventing them from crossing the borders with Greece. So after threatening the EU, and infringing this agreement, they risked any additional funding from the EU in the future...But did they really put their EU funding in peril? Or they knew well what they did? European Union, is seriously frightened of a migrant explosion in its territories, and would do anything to postpone any agreement on refugee matters, in the future...
So, as long as there is no international agreement on the migrant issue, and no discussion upon quotas per country, maybe the Turkish pressure, will function as a catalyst for a new funding, as an interim "solution", to a problem noone ever considers to be a priority, taking into account the business and wealth oriented societies we live in...
Till then, human lives remain on hold...As there is never enough time, and there is never enough pain, for countries and governments, to make them a priority!
written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science