Greece fears a new migration wave

Spike could be the result of earthquake devastation in Turkey or Erdogan weaponizing the issue

Greece fears a new migration wave

Government officials are greatly concerned about a new spike in migration as a result of the devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

Attempts by undocumented migrants to cross into Greece had already started rising last fall and rose further over winter, despite adverse weather conditions. Most of the attempts were sea crossings, as the land border between Greece and Turkey is now well policed. Improving weather over the spring and the widespread misery brought on by the earthquakes will further encourage people to cross into Europe, not only the millions of Syrians and others that have already found refuge in Turkey, but Turks as well.

A further unknown factor is whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will choose to weaponize the migration issue, as he did overtly in early 2020, both to appeal to voters ahead of what appears to be a difficult election and to wring concessions from Europe.

Sweden, which currently holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union, and European Council President Charles Michel are preparing a “donors’ conference” to assist Turkey in dealing with the staggering bill of the earthquake. The EU is also prepared to speed up the promised 3 billion euros in aid to help Turkey cope with the millions of migrants and refugees on its soil. It remains to be seen whether Erdogan will find the offerings enough to refrain from using a migration wave as a pressure tactic.

The new round of “earthquake diplomacy” inaugurated by Greece’s prompt response in sending rescue teams and delivering aid to Turkey has led Turkish officials to refrain from the aggressive rhetoric used against Greece recently. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, especially, has spoken of the possibility of a new era in bilateral relations and warmly received his Greek counterpart, Nikos Dendias. It remains to be seen whether this new tone will prove more than temporary. High-level bilateral contacts have remained active.

Whatever the state of bilateral relations, a possible postponement of Turkey’s elections, currently set for May 14, will not affect Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ plans to dissolve Parliament on March 10 and hold the first of what is widely expected to be two parliamentary elections on April 9. But, as government officials say, a calmer period in relations would be welcome.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.