Turkey threatens to open European borders to migrants

European lawmakers yesterday voted for a temporary halt to negotiations on EU membership talks with the Turkish administration

Turkey threatens to open European borders to migrants

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. File Photo 29-10-2016. Image: Burhan Ozbilici AP/Press Association Images

The Turkish president has threatened to throw open the border for migrants to enter Europe if pushed any further by EU politicians.

European lawmakers yesterday voted for a temporary halt to negotiations on EU membership talks with the Turkish administration.

Members of the European Parliament passed a non-binding motion urging the European Commission and national governments to put a stop to negotiations due to the Turkish government’s “disproportionate” reaction to a failed coup in the country earlier this year.

Parliament members acknowledged the motion was largely symbolic, however Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told a congress on woman’s justice in Istanbul, “if you go any further, these border gates will be opened.”

“Neither me nor my people will be affected by these empty threats,” he said. “It wouldn't matter if all of you approved the vote.”

Despite its increased concerns over human rights and press freedoms, the EU is currently relying on Turkish cooperation to keep down the number of refugees and migrants reaching Europe from its shores.

More than 1.3 million people arrived in Europe last year - triggering bitter disputes between EU member states over how to handle them.

The migrant deal with Turkey - though criticized by human rights groups - has reduced the influx via Turkey to a trickle.

Turkey says it is home to the world's largest refugee population, housing some 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis.

The deal with Turkey has been condemned by Amnesty International as “reckless and illegal” - with the agency’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, John Dalhuisen insisting it is a "fiction" to think that the country's struggling asylum system is capable of respecting the rights, and meeting the needs, of over three million asylum-seekers and refugees.

“While there is value in supporting and encouraging Turkey to develop a fully functioning asylum system, the EU cannot act as if it already exists,” he said.

EU governments are unlikely to take heed of the European Parliament vote.

Austria has led calls to stop Turkey's membership talks but Germany, France and most other EU states are backing continued engagement - and fear risking Erdogan's cooperation on migration.