Migrant Trail Ends Where It Begins

An uncontrollable torrent of 473,00 migrants and refugees is flooding this summer across Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

How and where did it begin? Can it be stopped at its source, to allow a more humane way to deal with migrants? Do these wanderers have the right to demand open doors to live in any country they desire in Europe, and to receive material support and protection?

Germany accepted tens of thousands, needed for its factories and boasted it would take 800,000 this year. But now Germany says "enough" to the crowds approaching its borders. Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and others refuse the migrants entry or dump them onto reluctant neighbors.

No one seems to be trying to figure out how to stop it.

The flow is like that of a fire hose whose nozzle has been cut off - you cannot re-cap the hose while the flow is on full blast.

The flow of people needs to be turned off at the source - in Turkey where it seems to begin.

Many of the migrants come from the 4 million Syrian refugees who fled civil war in Syria to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where they were safe and receiving international support.

Why were they suddenly allowed to travel to Western Turkey and openly pay smugglers, buy rubber boats and flotation vests and set off to Greece without visas or travel documents?

Who triggered the flow of people from Turkey into Europe? As far away as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan, people have sold all their belongings to pay for bus tickets and smugglers to get to the Turkish towns of Izmir and Bodrum where the Turkish authorities - powerful in smacking down independent journalists or restless Kurds - are waving them on.

"Go right ahead folks - and don't come back," the Turkish government seems to be saying.

Of course I can see some logic in allowing the terrible human tragedy to take place. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been unpopular and his party lost its majority in June elections. So he resorts to nationalism to try and cling to power. Stick it to the Europeans may be a popular policy.

When Erdogan rose to power more than a decade ago, he brought back Islamist ideology into a country of 75 million people that for years was a proud link between east and west. It was a Muslim majority country, but as a wandering visitor in the 1960s, I was welcomed into mosques in Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Alanya, and other cities. After prayers, people would bring me home for a lunch of olives, cheese and bread. My religion seemed not to matter.

Erdogan forced schools to bring religion back into the classroom and he reached beyond Turkey to try and lead an Islamic revival in the Arab world. During the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, before things deteriorated into violence, coups and counter coups, Erdogan went to Cairo and announced he would lead the Arab world in bringing back Islam as a way of political life.

Well the Arabs recall not too fondly four centuries under Turkish Ottoman rulers. The Arab response to the new Turkish sultan was "thanks but no thanks."

Then Erdogan started a fight with Israel, previously a staunch military and tourism partner to Ankara. Erdogan allowed an extremist Islamic group to raise a mini-flotilla of relief ships to pierce the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel intercepted the ships in a heavy-handed move that left around a dozen dead Turks, causing a rupture in military, tourism and other contacts.

Erdogan's application for EU membership was rejected, in part because the Europeans suspected Erdogan harbored a streak of authoritarianism and Islamist fervor.

Finally, Erdogan reached East -- to isolated Iran and Syria -- thinking it could lure the Shiite powers into a regional alliance - another move that ended in failure.

So Erdogan fell back on his inner core - the religious Turks who long felt excluded from power and disrespected by the modernist followers of the secular revolution of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk since the 1930s.

Barred by the constitution from another term as prime minister, Erdogan ran for president and won. But in June elections his party failed to win a majority in parliament - many seats went to opposition candidates and a Kurdish political party.

So Erdogan called for new elections and - how very mysterious this is - the civil war against the Kurds suddenly rekindled. Turkish troops now shell the Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq and shoot up Kurdish villages while guerillas plant roadside bombs.

And if nationalism against the Kurds is not enough to assure him continued control as sultan, the flow of refugees and migrants begins to wash up on Greek islands just three to four miles off Turkey.

Turkey is also the only power with control over the flow of migrants before they leave for Europe.

Turkey also had power to control the birth, growth and atrocities of Islamic State (IS). Brainwashed recruits fly to Istanbul and have no problem getting to the Syrian IS zone. Why didn't Turkey stop them and cut off flows of munitions and fighters?

Because it wants to bring down Syria's leader Bashar Al-Assad and IS is the perfect tool.

Europe has not yet figured out that it is Turkey that can turn off the fire hose. Ankara needs to bring some control into the movement of people. Allowing people to leave on unseaworthy, undocumented boats in the middle of the night is not a way that a responsible nation state behaves.

Europe is beginning to understand that it cannot honorably continue to receive tens of thousands of undocumented migrants without creating an unstoppable wave of desperate poor people, ready to hurl their bodies and their children on the rocky islands of Greece and the watery graves off Italy. Behind the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans are Nigerians, Sudanese and hundreds of millions more.

European, U.S., Russian and UN leaders must meet with Turkey and find out what it will take to have Ankara halt the illicit flow of migrants immediately. Once the first few hundred people are intercepted and sent to internment camps in Turkey and Jordan- an unfortunate but necessary move - the millions coming behind them will reconsider and abort their trips.

These leaders also need to work with Al-Assad to create an immediate ceasefire, leaving each faction in charge for now of the territory it controls, under supervision of t U.N. appointed interim head of state. All factions must maintain peace and allow refugee return.

The migrants themselves, racing against time to cross the border of Hungary and Austria and Serbia before these are shut down, will soon be forced to accept that the dignity they dreamed of achieving with jobs and social service payment in Germany and Sweden, will not be theirs.

In the 1950s at the end of colonialism, the fathers of today's migrant waves believed what they were taught in schools - that every poor Asian and African country would develop. That children of illiterate people would read and write and graduate from high school and university to build factories and mines and modern cities - just like those they saw in the movies.

Today, hundreds of millions of people realize they will never be able to build such lives. Corrupt elites, ethnic hatred, corporate power and greed have all limited the development of nations - even those with extensive foreign aid programs.

Some countries such as China have progressed economically and educationally. But others remain trapped in the caste and class rivalries for power that emerge in every village in the Third World, as Katherine Boo's excellent book, "Behind the Beautiful Flowers", about a slum in Mumbai exposes.

Another book exposing realty in the not-developing contries is the "Yacoubian Building" by Alaa al-Aswany- telling the heart wrenching fate of poor shop girls in Cairo molested by shop owners; or the son of a doorman who does well in high school but is barred from a policeman's job because of his father's low class.

So it is natural for these people to try by the millions to reach Europe and America and Australia, where there are limits on how many can be accepted.

But if the migrants seek a life with respect and dignity, as they tell reporters, it cannot be founded on the backs of a human wave of misery.

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