Turkish society cannot deal with this many refugees: Bundestag vice chair

Turkish society cannot deal with this many refugees: Bundestag vice chair

İpek Yezdani - BERLIN
Turkish society cannot deal with this many refugees: Bundestag vice chair

A Syrian family waits after arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos along with other migrants and refugees, on November 17, 2015, after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey. AFP Photo

The vice president of Germany’s Bundestag has deeply criticized her government’s bargaining with Turkey in an attempt to persuade Turkey to agree to a migrant action plan in return for the carrot of greater visa liberalization.

“I am criticizing very much our government: How can one make a deal with Turkey which will have the consequences that there will be even more refugees in Turkey? How can Turkish society deal with this big a number of men, women and children, and how can you integrate all these refugees into Turkish society?” Claudia Roth said. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to give support to four Turkish demands on which Ankara has insisted in return for agreeing to a migrant action plan with the European Union during a visit to Turkey on Oct. 18. 

Roth criticized this offer when she met a group of Turkish journalists at the Bundestag in Berlin last week. 
Roth said she feared the number of migrants coming to Turkey from Syria would increase following foreign military operations in Syria. 

“There will be more refugees from Syria and Iraq, too. Also there are more refugees coming from Afghanistan in which there is a humanitarian tragedy. Giving money to Turkey, giving some promises to Turkey, making some kind of election campaign that might be misused in the favor of the AK Party [Justice and Development Party] for the closing of the border... I think the price is too high for Turkey, too high for the refugees and too high for the EU,” Roth said.  

‘Shocked by pressures’

Roth also said she had been shocked by the increasing pressure on press freedom in Turkey in recent months. 

“Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and the base of this is also civic rights and freedom of press. Freedom of press is a basic human right. You need water and bread to survive, and you need freedom of press to survive. If there is no freedom of press, then there is no democracy,” she said.    

Roth, who is a member of the Green Party in the German parliament, said her party had categorically criticized Merkel’s visit to Turkey in the run-up to the Nov. 1 elections in the country.

“We had a very critical debate in parliament about the fact that freedom of the press is in prison in Turkey. There was a very critical approach that our chancellor went to Ankara one week before the election. This was based on the refugee question only,” she said. 

Roth said they had also criticized the fact that the European Commission did not publish a progress report on Turkey’s accession process before the Nov. 1 elections as scheduled.

“The report was ready and it was quite clear. There were two important points in this report. The first point was to thank Turkey and Turkish society for the fact that Turkey received the highest number of refugees in the world. But the negative aspect of this report was stressing the facts that civic rights and freedom of expression have been dramatically reduced and the independence of the juridical system doesn’t exist anymore,” Roth said. 

Roth said there was a kind of polarization in Turkish society which she has never seen in the last 20 years. “There is ‘we, the AKP’ and ‘the others.’ This is black and white, and there is no intention of bringing society together.”