Turkish journalist threatens Greece with migrants
Currently in Greece there are 8 Turkish soldiers who fled Turkey following the July 15 attempted coup. They are facing extradition back to Turkey over allegations of their involvement in the coup with some being accused of attempting to assassinate President Erdoğan. On Monday a Greek court ruled against the extradition of three of the soldiers due to concerns for their safety back in Turkey.1 Oddly, the next day, the same court, okayed Turkey’s extradition request for three of the other soldiers.2 The fate of the remaining two remains to be determined.
With the Greek judicial system sending mixed signals on the extradition issue, needless to say many in Turkey are not overly pleased that Greece is not fully complying with Turkey’s demands. Some have even gone so far as to threaten Greece on the matter.
For instance a Turkish journalist, Ali Karahasanoğlu, who writes for the pro-Erdoğan Akit daily, suggested that a couple thousand migrants released into Greece should be enough to coerce the Greek government into compliance.3 Karahasanoğlu said,
“Send 1,500-2,000 by a ship… Send bus convoys… Gather 15,000 refugees at the border gate. If they try to keep them at the border… Let them cross the border and set foot in Greek territory… Then they can change their laws… And either they stop playing the role of a country respecting human rights… or… they come like a lamb and say ‘We will do what you want’.”
One could easily dismiss Karahasanoğlu’s threat as an idle statement by a journalist who has no power to enact his ideas nor the prominence to influence those in power to listen to him. However, what is concerning is that similar threats have previously and repeatedly been made by important Turkish officials. Just two weeks ago, in response to the European Parliament’s (EP) recommendation to suspend Turkey’s accession talks with the EU, President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım veiledly threatened to unleash waves of migrants into Europe.4 Before that, during the migrant deal negotiations, Erdoğan and others made similar threats to EU officials.5
It is also interesting to note that following the EP decision and Erdoğan’s migrant threats, Greek intelligence reported a massing of small boats on the Turkish Aegean coast.6 Such vessels could easily be used to transport thousands of migrants daily into Europe. As such, I think Greece would be remiss not to take Karahasanoğlu’s threatening statement seriously.
In addition to the migrant and extradition issues, Turkey has made other menacing gestures towards Greece. A week ago Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that the Aegean island of Imia, which is Greek territory, “is Turkish land.”7 Then a few days later, coincidentally on the same day as the Greek court decided against extraditing the three Turkish soldiers, two or three Turkish fighter jets entered Greek airspace without authorization, and were subsequently intercepted by Greek F-16’s leading to a mock dog fight over the Aegean before the Turkish jets exited Greek airspace.8 The Turkish jets then once again violated Greek airspace, this time harassing two Greek military helicopters which were transporting officials including Defence Minister Panos Kammenos.
Such incidences and statements, by Turkish officials and journalists, illustrate Turkey’s lack of respect for Greek sovereignty. This lack of respect is consistent with Erdoğan’s recent criticisms of the Treaty of Lausanne. Unfortunately, depending on how the situation in the region unfolds, Greece may not only have to worry about a future influx of migrants on to her shores, but also Turkish troops and military forces as well.