12 million Turks are not allowed to move to the UK

Part of a series looking at the spin behind a Daily Express article – see this post for details.

Having established that Turkey is not going to be joining the EU any time soon, it it should be a relatively simple step to say that we are not going to see an influx of Turkish migrants on the UK’s borders.  Unfortunately, the Express and Mail have been putting out misleading stories about Turkey for months, and their reporting is designed to be vague enough that their readership sort of assumes it’s all the same story.

This story about 12 million Turks planning to move to the UK will immediately resonate with an audience who remember the front-page stories about Turkish citizens being given visa-free access to ‘the EU’, with subsequent analysis of how large migration would lead to infrastructure and services in the UK being stretched to breaking point, and massive unemployment.  However, that was and is a very different story, one which the papers have been very dishonest about.

The EU and Turkey have been negotiating visa-free travel deals for a number of years now, and of late there has been a strong push for this as part of the talks held regarding the migrant crisis.  There were 72 conditions placed on Turkey, of which almost all have been met, and the aim is that the visa-free travel scheme will be in place before the end of June.  More details can be seen here.

So, what the Express said, that 77 million Turks are on the way to the UK, is true then?  Not at all.

First, the visa-free scheme applies to short-term tourist visas only.  People who enter under such a visa can stay for 90 days and are unable to take employment.  There is no way of legally entering on a short-term visa and then living in the country.

Second, the scheme applies to the Schengen Area only.  The Schengen Area covers most, but not all, of the EU member states, as well as a number of countries which have entered into free trade agreements, such as Norway and Switzerland.  Crucially, it does not apply to the UK or Ireland, meaning that Turkish citizens will still need to apply for a visa to visit those countries.

On these two points, Nigel Farage almost acknowledges that they directly contradict the headline figures, but uses some leaps of logic to return.  Once the Turks are in the EU, probably Germany, they will disappear – although why they can’t do that while requiring a visa is unclear.  After disappearing, they will then somehow acquire a German passport.  Once they have German citizenship they will be free to live and work in the UK.  How an illegal immigrant can get hold of a German passport isn’t explained!

Third, there is the question of where the potential 77 million migrants are coming from.  In various reports, the number has been reported as 77 million and 79 million.  The population of Turkey is currently just under 75 million – and as even the Express’s new survey shows, only a small proportion of them have any thoughts of moving to the UK (let alone plans – but we’ll deal with that later).  This shows another trick employed by the papers in their propaganda-style reporting – using extreme numbers as fact.

Finally, the negotiations have actually broken down over Turkey’s human rights records and other political issues, meaning that the visa-free scheme may not happen.  This has been generally unreported, but where it was covered it had a heavy political spin put on it:

  • “It is a huge embarrassment for the EU, which is set to miss its own deadline” – there is no deadline, and the lack of a deal is due to the EU’s requirements meaning there’ll be no embarrassment there.
  • “… allowing its citizens to freely enter the European Schengen ‘borderless’ zone for up to three months without the usual security checks” – it’s not about security checks, it’s about not needing a visa. Turkish citizens will still be subject to passport checks when they enter the zone.
  • “‘The proposed visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens travelling to the EU could potentially have an impact on the terrorist risk in the EU,’ stated the report” – but there is no indication in the newspaper as to what this impact actually is.
  • “‘The EU is being held over a barrel by Turkey; Erdogan holds the cards so Brussels needs to bribe them to help do something about this continual flow of migrants, potential terrorists, drugs and weapons flowing from middle eastern countries into Europe,’ claimed Mike Hookem MEP, Ukip defence spokesman” – portraying the EU as powerless rather goes against the Express’s usual story of it being all-powerful. There is no need for the EU to do anything beyond the negotiations it has already taken part in.

Really, this question is a side note to the current report, but it’s one which is being conflated by those supporting the leave campaign in an effort to confuse and worry voters.  The questions over what large-scale immigration might do to the UK economy will be examined in a later post.

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