Counting Corpses – The Migration Catastrophe & the EU-Turkey Refugee Betrayal


Sheri Laizer in France – | 24 March 2016 –  Europe is a false sanctuary – only the strongest migrants succeed in Europe once they manage to get there. Socio-cultural adaptation and economic bureaucracy pose significant challenges to refugees. Ankara recently hosted a ‘grand meeting’ of adherents to extremist Hizb ut Tahrir – a Sunni fundamentalist group that, like ISIS, calls for a Caliphate. The conference embarked with an address on the theme of “Khilafah – Fiction or Near Future?”

Head of the party’s media office, Mahmut Kar proclaimed: “…“The Islam-hostile Kuffar thought that by abolishing the Khilafah on 3rd of March 1924, they buried Islam for good in history. They thought that Muslims would never make it back to the Khilafah. Today and here, with this conference, we lift the fallen flag again. And not only there where it fell down; not only in Istanbul… We are lifting up this flag in Ankara… We are sad, because the 3rd of March is the unfortunate day where this Ummah bereaved of its Khalifah. But at the same time we are hopeful, enthusiastic and rejoiceful. Because exactly 92 years after the abolishment of the Khilafah on 3rd of March 1924; here and today; right next to the Parliament where the Khilafah became abolished, we are shouting out that we will re-establish the Khilafah again.” 1

Come 20 March 2016, Turkey was being accorded responsibility along with a huge cash commitment for handling much of the migrant crisis affecting Europe owing to the wars in Syria and Iraq. 2A major generator of asylum seekers itself the agreement is flawed in more ways than one. Turkish security operatives are not the ideal policemen for fleeing Syrians and Iraqis – and particularly not so for Turkish Kurds that share leaky boats and lorries along with other international migrants. 3

Loaded by unscrupulous traffickers on their precarious journeys in search of safety, individual lives are being put at risk in a new manner to suit Europe and Turkey. The notion of one Syrian already in Turkey being settled in the EU for every Syrian sent back from Greece is absurd.

These desperate people are not a crate of oranges to be moved about in such a fashion. The thousands that will continue to arrive in Greece will not be welcomed by the Turks when sent back to Turkey.

The majority of asylum seekers struggle for survival and the preservation of their identity in the dreary ghetto suburbs of Europe’s capitals – among their own people.

Amnesty International has condemned the fundamental basis for the agreement declaring, “The persistent preoccupation with shipping people back to Turkey instead of making unconditional efforts on resettlement and offering other safe and legal ways to Europe shows an alarmingly short-sighted and inhumane attitude to handling this crisis…

“EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The idea of bartering refugees for refugees is not only dangerously dehumanising, but also offers no sustainable long term solution to the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” said Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.4

The BBC reported that since January 2015, one million migrants and refugees have entered the EU by boat from Turkey to Greece. More than 143,000 have arrived this year alone, and about 460 have died, according to the International Organization for Migration.5

Europe is a false sanctuary – only the strongest refugees succeed in Europe once they manage to get there. Socio-cultural adaptation and economic bureaucracy pose significant challenges to refugees. The majority of asylum seekers struggle for survival and preservation of their identity in the dreary ghetto suburbs of Europe’s capitals – among their own people. Asylum claims can take years.

Refusals of individual asylum claims by European governments and appeals in immigration and asylum courts are often based on standard paragraph rejections. These refusals all too frequently take very little, if any account of the most recent country conditions or individual risks on return on the basis of the family’s political profile and the individual’s actions and political sympathies. Asylum claims become a legal battle in which each side seeks to win the case -–often using lawyers and counsel that place their own success above that of the client’s integrity and wellbeing. Migrants posing as refugees – but lacking a just asylum claim – further overload the system by undermining it from within.

Counting Corpses in Iraq and Syria – the “Catastrophic normal”

The Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) provides statistics for civilian deaths in Iraq, which clearly show that since ISIS gained control of large swathes of territory in Iraq, the death toll for 2014 and 2015 was even higher than that of the year of the 2003 invasion. In 2014 the IBC reveals that some 20,035 civilians were killed in Iraq with a further 17,080 people killed last year (2015). In 2003, the toll was 12,125 civilians. 6 The IBC refers to this as the ‘catastrophic normal’.

According to UNHCR “As of June 2015, at least 3.1 million people had been displaced by conflict in Iraq since January 2014 and 8.2 million were in need of humanitarian assistance. As in previous conflicts, civilians have been directly targeted by all warring parties and continue to constitute the majority of casualties.

For its part, the Guardian observed that US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers and has “a formal policy of ignoring such allegations” unless the allegations involve coalition forces.7

People killed during military operations and air strikes may also be civilians that have been wrongly classed as ‘combatants’ and these include journalists. Wikileaks reported: “Sometimes US troops classified civilian deaths as enemy casualties. For example, the July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike by US helicopter gunships, which killed two Reuters journalists along with several men thought to be armed, (sic were) suspected to be insurgents. They… were all listed as “enemy killed in action” 8

Volunteers gesture to guide migrants, island of Lesbos, Greece. Photo: Reuters

Syria – Tsunami of Death

So far as the death toll in Syria is concerned, by 2014, 25,160 pro-government forces and 32,726 anti-government forces had died – a total of 57,886 fighters.

Last year, 2015, the combined figure for combatants reached 41, 696 fighters killed.9

Of the hard pressed civilian population The New York Times reported that 400,000 people had so far been killed in the past four and a half years and more than 4 million survivors had fled from Syria.

The NY Times report goes on: “An estimated 28, 277 people had died in ‘shootings and mass killings …between government forces and insurgents.’ 10

A further 27,006 people were reported killed in mortar, artillery and rocket attacks and 18,866 by Syrian government aerial attacks. 8,871 people were reported killed “after being kidnapped, detained and/or tortured. A further 984 people were killed by ‘exposure to chemical or toxic substances.’

In attacks and bombings of hospitals 654 medical workers died.

More than 565 civilians have so far starved to death or died through dehydration and/or a lack of access to medical services.

According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, 181 people have been reported killed in US-led attacks on ISIS positions. 11

The Violations Documentation Center in Syria observed that fewer deaths were reported for ISIS controlled areas “where access to information is especially limited.”12 Their website gives statistics by area as well as by gender, age and whether or not the casualty is civilian or non-civilian.

And what of those left to starve, reportedly eating grass and insects like the Syrians in Madaya?13

According to the NY Times, “Asylum seekers in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are expected to increase by almost a million in 2015, reaching 4.7 million by December. 14

That was three months ago and the human Tsunami spreads in ever widening circles, corpses still washing up ashore, including a four-month old baby girl drowned hours before the EU-Turkey migrant deal was agreed and another boat carrying migrants sank like so many before it.15

Syria was in need of political restructuring in 2011 but the conflict that has raged like a wildfire has also led to the destruction of irreplaceable historic sites 16 17, natural resources, much of Syria’s industry and agriculture, including wheat and cotton production, urban structures in Deraa, Raqqa, Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Kobane, Palmyra, and almost elsewhere else, along with habitation and the environment in general. Where – and to what – could the 4.7 million Syrian refugees return?

So far as the government of Syria is concerned, Bashar was not going to shame the Assad dynasty and the ‘achievements’ of his father, Hafiz al-Assad, by stepping aside without a show of force. Assad will not budge and should not be removed in the careless manner in which, for the sake of comparison, Saddam Hussein was removed. If Assad were to be toppled as Saddam was toppled, Syria will remain an enduring conflict zone like Iraq. Chances are, it will anyway. The Assad dynasty had remained in place owing to its strength and the force it was certain to deploy in the face of resistance – hence the war goes on.

Assad was not wrong in stating early on that ‘foreign forces’ were trying to take over the country. This was and remains correct.18 Democratic forces within Syria have been no match for fundamentalist militia groups that are utterly ruthless and draw upon foreign recruits. Syria’s destruction is almost accomplished. Satellite imagery reveals something of the scale. A UN report from mid 2014 observed: “Mass graves, deserted markets and whole neighbourhoods pounded to rubble: it is hard to illustrate the immense scale of the destruction Syria has suffered in four years of war. A new UN report seeks to tell the story in a new way, using images from the air. The report uses aerial photos to highlight the destruction of schools and hospitals, indiscriminate barrel bomb attacks on civilian areas, and the scale of internally displaced and refugee populations. It also shows the extent of damage done by attacks on some of the Middle East’s most valuable historical sites.”19

ISIS needs no excuse for carnage: the so-called Islamic State has become the embodiment of alienation from civilisation.

Jihadists in Europe are among the millions of disaffected refugees and second and third generation migrants who have readily become radicalised. Radicalisation is one of the results of social disenfranchisement, the quest for identity and meaning in what is essentially an alien environment outside the home and the peer group.

Radicalisation just as readily leads to such suicide bombing attacks as those carried out yesterday in the Belgian capital, Brussels – certainly a response to the capture just days before of one of the Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, from a Moroccan migrant family in Belgium. 20 ISIS sought to justify the terror attacks as revenge for what it termed Belgian involvement in ‘fighting militants in Syria and Iraq’ – although that role has been limited mainly to air strikes in Iraq that were wound up by June 2015 with only a few hundred supporting troops remaining there according to the Independent. 21

It is a poor excuse. But ISIS needs no excuse for carnage whether in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Europe or elsewhere: the so-called Islamic State has become the embodiment of alienation from civilisation.

3 See this author:
5 Op. Cit
7[1] Davies, Nick; Steele, Jonathan; Leigh, David (22 October 2010). “Iraq war logs: secret files show how US ignored torture”The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 October 2010.
8[1] Ibid.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid.
14[1] The scale of the migrant crisis, from 160 to millions by Gregor Aisch, Sarah Almukhtar, Josh Keller and Wilson Andrews Sept. 22, 2015
16 See this author: Sheri Laizer, Weep for Palmyra
18 See this author, Sheri Laizer, Beheadings and Bikinis – the New Dark Ages
20 See this author:
Sheri Laizer, a Middle East and North African expert specialist and well known commentator on the Kurdish issue.