THE migrant crisis in Europe goes from bad to worse – and just when you think things couldn’t possibly deteriorate further along comes Turkey to prove you wrong.
For this week Turkey emerged as the unlikely saviour that will supposedly rescue the EU from its ever-downward spiral towards chaos and disintegration.
Yes that Turkey – the one with the increasingly despotic Islamist government that has crushed the free press and democratic opposition and is accused of funding Isis terrorists.
Naturally Turkish assistance in stemming the flow of migrants into Europe from the Middle East doesn’t come cheap. When the EU offered a three billion euro bribe, Turkey immediately demanded six billion. I suppose that’s the way they do business in the Grand Bazaar of Old Istanbul.
From what we can gather the latest agreed figure is about four billion – including £500m from British taxpayers – but you can expect this figure to rocket now Turkey has a vested interest in keeping the flow of migrants running.
But staggering those these sums are, they are dwarfed by the real prize. For years, Turkey has been asking for membership of the EU but has been fobbed off with a series of feeble excuses.
But now it has some real leverage with Europe, Turkey has demanded a fast track to full EU membership.
As an interim measure, Brussels has agreed that 77 million Turks will gain visa-free entry to the EU from June this year.
So let us pause and take in the full scale of this folly; in order to deal with a crisis caused by the influx of a million, mainly poor, Muslim migrants to Europe, the EU is promising free, unfettered access to another 77 million, mainly poor, Muslim migrants to Europe.
It would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.
Perhaps they are hoping we won’t notice all the Syrian migrants because they will be outnumbered by the Turkish ones?
And don’t believe for a second the blandishments from our Government that these Turkish migrants won’t be allowed into the UK. They will, you can bet on it.
EU free movement regulations are absolutely unequivocal on this point – once a person is accepted as a legal resident in one EU country they have an unassailable right to live, work and claim benefits, in any of the other 27 member states – including the UK, where they will also receive free education, health care and subsidised housing.
Just to give you an indication of the pull factors at work here, the average salary in Turkey is around £400 a month, or less than £5,000 a year. Do you really think they won’t come?
In exchange for the bribes and the EU membership talks, Turkey will allow migrants who have made the crossing across the Aegean to Greece to be returned to Turkey.
And for each person returned to Turkey, the EU has agreed to resettle a Syrian refugee from Turkey within Europe.
Don’t bother grappling with the complexities of this deal – all you need to know is that it won’t work.
For a start it is clearly illegal under international law. Both the 1951 UN Refugees Convention and the European Convention of Human Rights expressly forbid the blanket deportation of asylum seekers from one country to another.
If the deal is finally concluded, it will immediately be subject to legal challenges from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Court of Human Rights and others, which will delay its implementation until after the summer when the migrant flow will be at its peak.
The sheer scale of this crisis dwarfs the debate in the UK over whether we should stay or leave. It is a bit like arguing over the place settings on the captain’s table as the ship steams towards an iceberg.
When is the last time you heard anyone mention the details of David Cameron’s so-called renegotiation, which in fact changed absolutely nothing? Frankly, who cares?
Britain is faced with a difficult choice – either strike out alone or take our chances in the chaos engulfing the EU.
I’m increasingly reminded of the old punk classic from The Clash:
“Should I stay or should I go?
If I go there will be trouble,
And if I stay there will be double.
So you’ve got to let me know.
Should I stay or should I go?”