West to blame for migrant crisis: US rights group

West to blame for migrant crisis: US rights group

Cansu Çamlıbel
West to blame for migrant crisis: US rights group


The migrant crisis erupted from the failures of Western countries, an official from U.S.-based Freedom House has stressed, amid an amassment of thousands of Syrians on the Turkish border attempting to flee violence in the war-torn country. 

“I think the big analytical conclusion that comes from looking at the situation in Syria and the refugees is that the U.S. and EU governments failed to show leadership in dealing with the situation in Syria. The ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL] movement emerged because of that failure to act. Instead of taking the form of invasion it might have taken the form of support of more peaceful elements,” said Mark P. Lagon, the president of Freedom House.

Lagon criticized the EU for turning a blind eye to violations of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey after a deal reached in late 2015 between Turkey and the 28-member-state union to stem the migrant flow to the EU in exchange for 3 billion euros of aid to keep Syrians on Turkish soil.

“A huge flow of refugees have come into Europe. Not having acted earlier, the response of EU governments has been to cynically reinitiate discussions of Turkey’s accession to the EU as a way of rewarding Turkey for its efforts to deal with the ISIS problem in Syria and Iraq,” Lagon said.

“Certainly things have not been going in [an] improved direction in Turkey in terms of those questions of pluralism and freedom of expression. [The] situation is mixed and worrisome. So the EU is in fact detaching itself from the standard of human rights in that cynical discussion of Turkey’s accession,” he added. 

Remarking on fundamental rights and civil liberties, Lagon underscored that “the elements that are missing to be called ‘free’ in the country relate to freedom of expression and free press.”

“In Turkey, [the] particular issue in question we are focused on is the freedom of expression. There are some very striking examples of problems there... [In the] freedom of the Internet report [for example], we conclude that Turkey is partly free,” he said. 

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, releasing annual reports that show ratings for each country in civil liberties, political freedom, freedom of expression and free press.

“For Turkey, the elements that are missing to be called ‘free’ or to be fully democratic beyond elections relate to freedom of the press [and] freedom of expressions,” Lagon said.

Lagon described partly-free countries as middle category states, some of which call themselves democracies and hold elections but have a sufficient level of corruption, intimidation of the opposition and limited free speech. 

“Partly free countries, some of which are democratic in name but illiberal in character, have developed tactics for squeezing civil society and freedom of expression in particular,” Lagon said.

Lagon said developments such as the attack on daily Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan and imposing high taxes on particular media outlets pose a major problem for freedom.

“The targeted use of insults… against 19 journalists and two cartoonists getting prison sentences is an abuse of power to intimidate people… [against making] statements critical of the government. The president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is] suing someone in Turkey on average every four days when you look at the statistics in 2015. That is a lot intimidation and the ECHR [European Court for Human Rights] joins Freedom House in pointing out that problem,” he added.

“There is a centralized ownership of the press, the relationship between some media organs and the government… It is the full of exercise of freedom of expression that is problematic,” Lagon said.