Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

Let Turkey into Europol, British MPs say

  • Heroin in Afghanistan. The MPs said: 'Not to admit Turkey to membership ... would be to cut off the European nose to spite our face' (Photo: isafmedia)

Turkey should be allowed to become a member of the EU's joint police body, Europol, no matter what happens with its EU membership bid, a new report by the British parliament has said.

The study, published by MPs on the home affairs committee on Monday (1 August), cited Europol director Rob Wainwright and the head of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), Steve Coats, as favouring the move.

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"Because [Turkey is] not a member of Europol ... they don't enjoy the same services that other European law enforcement has in terms of our ability to connect police teams together," Wainwright told the parliamentary enquiry.

"There are advantages to it in terms of our intelligence systems, intelligence pathways and operational ability to work on operations with other partners," Coats told MPs.

The study noted that Turkish-based organised crime groups pose an increasing threat to EU security in terms of heroin smuggling from Afghanistan, cocaine from Latin America, human trafficking and people smuggling.

Turkey already has a basic agreement with Europol, but current arrangements do not allow sharing of operational data, such as personal information on suspects and victims.

"We strongly recommend that Turkey be allowed full membership of Europol ... and of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction, prior to (and irrespective of) full [EU] membership," the parliamentary committee said.

"Not to admit Turkey to membership of those bodies would be to cut off the European nose to spite our face."

The MPs indicated the EU should also give ground to Turkey on visa liberalisation in order to ease tensions over irregular migration on the Greek-Turkish border.

Around 350 irregular migrants try to cross the 12.5-km-long border into the EU every day. Most of them come from Pakistan, Central Asia and Afghanistan trying to get to Greece, the UK, Sweden, Germany or Italy.

They end up being held in Greek detention camps in "desperate conditions" but are then released because the EU does not have a readmission agreement with Turkey, which has made the move conditional on the union first putting forward a plan for future visa-free travel for Turkish nationals.

"The situation has now reached crisis proportions," the MPs, who visited Greece and Turkey as part of their research, said. "In Athens, for example, residents have become fearful of entering parts of the old town where large numbers of homeless migrants gather."

The MPs added: "Turkish authorities feel that they are grappling with problems that are 'made in Europe' but that their efforts are not recognised in some European countries ...Turkey has a genuine will to achieve agreement and to improve co-operation and practice, but feels that EU decision-making is slow and cumbersome."

On the broader issue of Turkish EU accession, MPs estimated that opening up EU borders to Turkey could see as few as 500,000 or as many as 4.5 million Turkish nationals relocate to the EU after their hypothetical entry date of 2020.

The report added that fewer irregular migrants would come via Turkey into the rest of the union because Turkish EU membership would let asylum-seekers ask for help in Turkey instead of first having to make it across the existing EU border to file their claim.

"More than half of all those asylum-seeking migrants coming to the EU would probably agree to stay in Turkey if they were to get access to asylum procedures," Oxford University migration expert Franck Duvell told the MPs. "People who come from neighbouring countries, there is a familiarity; they have the same religion, languages are similar ... people would be prepared to stay."

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