Terrorism fears over visa-free Turkish immigration
Former head of MI6 warns of 'populist uprising' amid growing anger from voters
A controversial plan for visa-free Turkish immigration into the European Union has been called into question after EU leaders admitted that any deal would increase the risk of terrorist attacks.
A European Commission report released yesterday predicted that foreign terrorists and organised criminals are "expected" to seek Turkish passports to reach continental Europe as soon as the visa waiver programme comes into force.
The controversial agreement, which will allow Turkey's 75 million citizens access to the Schengen zone for up to 90 days at a time, is part of the "hastily-assembled" deal brokered between Brussels and Ankara to halt the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece, says the Daily Telegraph.
With many now citing serious objections to the proposal, the refugee deal hangs in the balance, with concerns over potentially unlimited immigration from Turkey now being stoked by those campaigning to leave the EU.
'Untold social consequences'
Citing the Prime Minister's support for Turkey's full accession to the EU, Eurosceptics have argued that the visa-free deal is just the opening salvo in a process that will have untold economic and social consequences for Britain and the wider EU.
Those in favour of Brexit claim that a country that borders Iran, Iraq and Syria – not to mention curbs the freedom of the press and abuses human rights – should not be welcomed into the EU and that the effect of a sudden influx of Turkish citizens could tip the EU into chaos. As the most recent polls show support for Remain growing, many in the Leave camp have sought to use the fear of mass immigration to bolster support for Brexit.
The move has been condemned by the Daily Sabah, the English language newspaper published in Istanbul, widely seen as a mouthpiece of Turkey's ruling AKP party. The paper has attacked the EU for threatening to renege on the deal and says Europe's reputation is "on the line".
It claims that the European far-right has been making "thinly-veiled references to a disaster scenario involving millions of Muslims invading Europe", adding: "It would appear racism is alive and kicking in the old continent."
The former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, last night seemed to stoke these tensions by urging EU leaders not to press ahead with the "shambolic" Turkey deal.
According to the Daily Express, he warned that the continent faced a "populist uprising" amid growing anger from voters who feel they have been betrayed by political elites in London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels.
Turkey on track for visa-free travel into EU
Turkey looks set be granted visa-free travel into Europe's Schengen zone, despite failing to meet a number of key eligibility requirements.
The European Commission is expected to officially recommend loosening travel conditions tomorrow, ahead of next month's vote on the issue by EU member states and the European Parliament.
The concession is part of Turkey's controversial refugee relocation deal with the European Union, which has helped ease the number of people arriving in Europe but been widely condemned by human rights groups.
Turkey is required to meet 72 conditions by 4 May in order to access Europe's passport-free zone. However, the Financial Times reports that nine requirements have yet to be completed, including revising terrorism legislation to better protect minority rights and anti-corruption measures.
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the country had made "a lot of efforts over the past weeks and days to meet the criteria".
Ankara has warned it will terminate the refugee deal if the visa waiver is not granted.
"These are desperate times," reports the BBC's Katya Adler. "The EU fears if the visa agreement slides, so will Turkey's commitment to stop migrant crossings."
The proposal could be vetoed when put to the vote in Brussels next month, with politicians wary of granting 75 million Turks access to the Schengen area amid rising anti-immigration sentiment.
One diplomat told the BBC there were also a number of MEPs who resented Turkey "squeezing concessions out of Europe now that it's the most popular guy in town because of the migrant issue".