A group of British parliamentarians have warned Turkey that it cannot join the European Union (EU) until it seals up its porous eastern borders and cracks down on organized crime.
The UK lawmakers are particularly concerned about the potential for more illegal immigration into Europe should Turkey join the EU, given the inadequate security it has along its borders with Iraq, Syria and Iran.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee declared in a report released Monday that Turkey must show “clearly and objectively” that it satisfies the stringent criteria set by the EU regarding its frontiers before it can join the bloc.
“Current migration of Turkish nationals to the EU has declined to below 50,000 a year, but population trends and the gap in living standards could make easier migration within the EU an attractive option for Turkish citizens,” said the report.
“Given the UK's experience after the 2004 [EU] enlargement, when many thousands more migrants arrived than expected, the committee is cautious about allowing Turkish citizens full freedom of movement and supports the government's commitment to applying ‘effective transitional controls as a matter of course' for all new member states.”
Turkey’s border with Greece is also described as a pivotal place for illegal immigration into Europe.
"By Oct. 2010, about 46 percent of all irregular immigration detected at the EU external border took place at the land border between Greece and Turkey, and the authorities estimated that up to 350 migrants were attempting to cross the 12.5km-land border near the Greek city of Orestiada every day," the report said
British Labour MP Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, further stated: "We require a collective commitment from Greece, Turkey and the European and international law enforcement agencies to share intelligence and work together to bring down the criminal gangs who are responsible for bringing thousands of migrants into the EU each month.”
The British report also expressed concern that Turkey is also a key launch-pad for organized criminals seeking to cross to Europe.
Quoting Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, the report noted that Turkish crime groups are “significantly involved in various forms of organized criminality,” including the heroin, cocaine and firearms trafficking and money laundering.
The committee pointed out that up to 80 percent of the heroin trafficked from Afghanistan into Europe goes through Turkey.
However, Turkey’s bid to the join the EU faces many other obstacles. The two most powerful leaders in Europe, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy, adamantly oppose Turkish membership.
The process has been extremely sluggish ever since membership talks commenced in Oct. 2005.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule told the Commons Home Affairs Committee that Turkey is unlikely to join the EU until 2020 at the earliest.
Ironically, British Prime Minister David Cameron staunchly supports Turkey’s EU aspirations.