Europe Turns Its Back on Refugees—and Its Own Values

Clashes on the Greek Border With Turkey Reveal the EU’s Failings

Migrants near the Edirne-Kastanies border crossing at Kastanies, Greece, March 2020 Alexandros Avramidis / Reuters

Five years ago, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled from Syria and elsewhere to the countries of the European Union, sparking what was widely described as a “migrant crisis.” Today, another influx of people may be coming as the humanitarian situation in northern Syria worsens. Since 2011, Turkey has absorbed more than four million migrants from its southern neighbor. Many of these refugees aspired to continue on to Europe. But in 2016, Ankara signed an agreement with the EU that pledged to curb migrant flows west in exchange for six billion euros of funding. Four years later, however—with his adventures in Syria and Libya faltering and the economy flagging—Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has deployed a weapon he’s kept in his arsenal since signing the 2016 deal. Ankara has reneged on the deal and allowed refugee flows to Europe once again. Erdogan’s aim, presumably, is to force

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