The true cost of the EU turning back refugees
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Europe is no longer treating the influx of refugees as a humanitarian crisis. For most EU leaders, the refugees are being treated as a political crisis and a financial burden that they are eager to quickly bury, even at a very high cost. The cost, however, is not simply financial or political. The cost should be measured in the millions of lives that will be shattered, the moral capital that will be wasted and the cost of making deals with an authoritarian Turkish regime, all of which will come back to haunt the West.

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Brussels is rushing into an immoral deal with Ankara, which considers the lives of Syrian refugees as collateral. From handing over billions of dollar in aid, to negotiating an agreement to allow entry of Turkish passport holders into Europe without a visa, and the promises of reopening negotiations for Turkey's ascension to the European Union, the cost to the EU, even in the short-term, will only continue to rise. The refugees will continue to come as long as the war in Syria rages on, which means Ankara will continue to have the threat of opening the gates to Europe or turning a blind eye to the human smuggling mafias on its Aegean shores.

Turning a blind eye to an increasingly authoritarian regime in Turkey might result in an uncontrollable neighbor to the east of Fortress Europa that will haunt Europe and the Middle East for years to come. By handing over billions of dollars and promises of closer cooperation so that the Turkish government will act as a prison guard for the fleeing Syrians, Brussels is making a deal with an increasingly authoritarian regime that is committing human rights abuses and forcibly silencing voices of opposition with impunity. The war against the Kurds (hardly ever reported in Western media); the clampdown on freedom of speech, which has recently reached deep into the ivory towers of the Turkish academy; and more recently, the violent seizing and occupying of a major newspaper and media agency — Zaman newspaper and Cihan News Agency, respectively — are just some examples of the accelerating slide of a democratic Turkey into the pits of authoritarianism while Western governments look the other way.

The EU has two choices here, and the time to make the right one is running out. It can continue to follow shortsighted policies with a massive human cost in order to avoid responsibility in helping out fellow humans in need. Or it can admit that this crisis is not going anywhere and long-term solutions, not short-term bribes, are needed.

If we are to examine the bigger picture, we see that it is not just Syrians who are fleeing war; all across the globe — in South and Southeast Asia and North and sub-Saharan Africa, and further afield in Central and South America and the Caribbean — masses of humanity are risking their lives to escape war and famine with the hope of moving toward a more stable and prosperous future. It is estimated that close to 70 million people are currently displaced, and most are on the move north. That is more than the entire population of the Roman Empire at its height! This is not a temporary or single-source refugee crisis that we can hope will go away. It is a global population redistribution in the making, and we either come to terms with it and step up to the challenge or we will pay the price for mismanaging it for many generations to come.

By listening to internal xenophobic voices over the voices of human compassion and experience from a not-so-distant history, the EU is contributing to a move toward a neo-fascism that seems cast an ever-longer dark shadow over the West. The refugee crisis can either remind us of our humanity and an inevitable multicultural future or act as the tipping point back toward the dark ages of fascism and xenophobia. Appeasing Turkey's current regime, putting up walls and forgetting our humanity might have short-term political gains, but will prove to have dire long-term consequences that will come to haunt us in the increasingly interconnected world in which we live.

Minawi is assistant professor of History at Cornell University, where he is also director of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative (OTSI). His forthcoming book, "The Ottoman Scramble for Africa: Empire and Diplomacy in the Sahara and the Hijaz," will be published by Stanford University Press in 2016. Follow him on Twitter @MostafaMinawi.