Senior Israeli diplomatic sources say that the Syrian refugee crisis is being deliberately worsened by Turkey as part of a plan to force Nato to act against President Bashar al-Assad.
In recent months, Turkish police have been clamping down on refugees seeking to find work and lodgings in eastern Turkey — while at the same time aiding or turning a blind eye towards the massive people-smuggling operation centred on several coastal Turkish cities, the sources said.
Every day in Izmir, thousands of refugees pay around £1,000 each for a space on a dinghy to transport them across the Aegean Sea to Greece. This has become the route for many Syrian refugees in Turkey and also for migrants from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The foreign editor of Israel’s Channel 2, Arad Nir, wrote recently that, according to diplomatic sources: “Erdogan is now trying to create intolerable human pressure in the heart of Europe. The assessment in Israel is that the Turks believe that by doing this, they can force its Nato allies to deal with the root of the problem by making a concerted effort to remove Assad from the equation.”
Others attribute this Turkish policy to rising unemployment in the country and the anti-Kurdish and anti-Syrian sentiments being whipped up by the AK Party government, which is currently fighting its second general election this year.
The French consul in Bodrum was recently filmed by France’s Channel 2, saying: “The municipality is helping with the traffic [of refugees by sea]. The harbour master is helping with their trafficking. The governor of the district is helping with their trafficking.”
Over two million Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey since the civil war began in Syria four and a half years ago.
Mr Nir wrote: “At first, Turkey did everything it could to block the sea routes being used for illegal immigration to Europe. Later, however, with Nato refusing to take action to overthrow Assad, and with Daesh failing to fulfil Erdogan’s hope that it decisively defeat the Alawite leader, Turkey decided to make things difficult for Europe by shifting some of the pressure there.
“Over the past few months, Turkey stopped blocking the refugees’ movement westward. The Israeli source said that it is quite possible that the same Turkish security forces that had helped Daesh are enabling the human smugglers.”