Belarus is using refugees for politics. Turkey did the same

Yazidi and Kurdish refugees, many of whom are fleeing ethnic cleansing and genocide in Syria and Iraq, are among thousands of people being used in a political game along the Belarusian-Polish border this week. .

While some media have been reporting for weeks on refugees from Syria and Iraq and other countries who ended up in Belarus and other Eastern European countries, some of them freezing to death, the crisis has now erupted on the international stage.

Belarus appears to be using a tactic perfected by Turkey in 2020. It was also perfected by European countries in 2015. The tactic is to push migrants and refugees to neighboring countries, or at least create a situation where they are trapped at the border.

In this case, it may not be entirely Belarus’ fault, as migrants and refugees have become a huge problem for countries across the continent, most of whom pass the buck to the next state by doing precisely what. Belarus is doing.

The differences between the policies of European countries, as well as those of Turkey and Belarus, may seem stark, but they may not be as stark as the media portrays them.

Coffins with the remains of people from the Yazidi minority, who were killed by Islamic State militants, and were exhumed from a mass grave, are seen during the funeral in Kojo, Iraq, on February 6, 2021. Photo taken on February 6 from 2021 (credit: REUTERS / CHARLOTTE BRUNEAU)

I spent time crossing the borders of Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary in 2015 with the hundreds of thousands of refugees that piled up there in the fall of 2015. In those days, Germany had invited refugees to come to Europe and Turkey allowed Syrians and Afghans to move to Greece. Greece, in turn, would transfer people, sometimes by ferry or other methods, to the border with North Macedonia.

I watched as people in cars crossed into North Macedonia, as refugees gathered in a camp and local authorities formed them into groups of 20 to 40 people and transferred them to a bridge. On the other hand, in North Macedonia, the authorities stopped people and let some get on buses to Serbia. Then, from Serbia, they crossed to the Hungarian border until Hungary closed it.

This is a tragic game that takes place between states, but that mostly hurts refugees. Small countries like Greece or Serbia cannot host a million Afghans and Syrians. Nor is there any reason why the countries of Europe necessarily have to host all these people. However, the fact is that millions are on the move and no one knows what to do with them.

Turkey currently has millions of Syrians and claims it does so as a benevolent helper. However, Turkey has used the refugees in its care as a weapon. In March 2020, he used refugees against Greece, claiming that he had “opened the doors” to Europe by doing so. Turkey has periodically threatened to send millions of Syrians to Europe unless the EU or NATO support its policies in Syria. Those policies include the ethnic cleansing of Kurds, Yazidis and Christians, the same people who later become refugees. In fact, Turkey had backed Syrian extremist rebel groups in 2018, paying them to ethnically cleanse the Kurds of Afrin.

Some of the Syrians who were displaced in Syria, either by Turkey or by the Assad regime, along with refugees from Iraq, have ended up in Belarus. Various versions of how they got there differ, but the reality is that the refugees are there and Belarus is not interested in hosting such a large number of civilians. Belarus, an authoritarian state with a low socioeconomic status, has no experience with large numbers of Middle Eastern minorities. Furthermore, none of the neighboring countries, Lithuania and Russia, seem to love the migrants.

The policies that are being implemented may be based on a combination of the cynical use of refugees and migrants, as well as racism. The important thing is that this is a new front-line crisis now on the European continent and it is recalling past experiences, such as those of 2015 and 2020, when refugees were used and the crisis grew.

The 2015 experience likely also helped drive Brexit. Furthermore, it led to unprecedented mass murder terrorist attacks in France thanks to France’s “open door” policy. In some cases, the terrorists were not actually from Syria or Iraq, but from where ISIS members who had actually traveled from Europe to the Middle East and returned.

Either way, the huge masses of people who moved to Europe were never accurately counted. I witnessed tens of thousands of people crossing borders without a single border check, without attempting to take fingerprints or taking photos for facial recognition, or any effort to get people to sign their names upon entering a state.

It was total chaos in 2015 and it’s total chaos today. Why?

Because even though Europe has organizations like the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, it never bothered to streamline an immigration and identification process. Despite having the most advanced software and artificial intelligence systems available, some of which have been used during the pandemic, the theory is that when it comes to migrants and refugees, people will be treated as they were in 1911 or 1946 .

There is almost no difference in the chaos of Europe’s inability to deal with refugees today as it was in 1946, and it could be argued that, in reality, in the 1940s and 1950s, after World War II and the Holocaust, European countries were more organized to resettle and deal with major movements of people.

The tragedy unfolding today along the borders of Belarus and the attempt by the media to blame one state or another fails to capture the realities of 2015 and 2020, when little was done to learn the lessons of what Turkey and other countries did in those years.

Since then, EU countries have often paid Ankara to prevent migrants from traveling to Europe. This is clearly a short-term solution and has had the effect of outsourcing abuses to Turkey, sometimes even Libya. For example, Turkey is now building a border wall along the Iranian border to block Afghan migrants and has built a wall along the border with Syria. Now, more fences and walls are being erected in Europe between Belarus and Poland.

Poland is now in the unenviable position of dealing with the migration crisis. Belarus may be cynically exploiting it, but the general context is that there are refugees and migrants in Belarus who do not want to be trapped there. Where are Western asylum-seeking policies in place to help genocide survivors? Where were they when the genocide against the Yazidis and the Kurds was enacted in Afrin?

Across Europe, various museums related to the Holocaust lead many people to say “never again”, but when it comes to actual survivors of the genocide, little is really different than when IDPs fled the camps in 1945. In the decade By 1950, most of those internally displaced persons were resettled. For the Yazidis who suffered the genocide in 2014, no end is in sight, whether in Belarus or elsewhere.

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