Shooting of refugees: why is everyone so quiet?

Turkish border guards allegedly killed Syrian refugees. Many German politicians remain silent about it. And Frauke Petry is triumphant.

Turkish border guards on patrol at the border with Iraq Photo: dpa

On the video published by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), corpses can be seen. Their faces are pixelated, but their wounds and blood are clearly visible. They are believed to have died at the Turkish-Syrian border – shot or beaten to death by Turkish border guards. The organization has spoken to victims and witnesses. In total, five asylum seekers and smugglers were reportedly killed and 14 others seriously injured on the border strip in March and April, including children. The border is becoming increasingly dangerous and is often completely sealed, HRW writes.

So far, other than these testimonies that the organization cites in its report, there is no evidence that Turkey is shooting at refugees. There is no video of a Turkish border guard putting on a gun and pulling the trigger.

But the victims’ accounts read solid and rich in detail: "Suddenly, when we were about 500 meters from the border, we heard an automatic weapon being fired from there," reports a man who was reportedly traveling with women and children. "We threw ourselves on the ground and protected the children with our bodies." His cousin and sister died lying on the ground next to him, he said.

If this is true, then it is a scandal. Then it means that refugees no longer drown or die just "by chance" on their way to Europe – and Europe looks the other way. But then it means that Europe contributes to the fact that people are murdered on their way to Europe.

The outcry fails to materialize

When AfD leader Frauke Petry called for a firing order at Europe’s borders earlier this year, the outcry in the media and among politicians was great. Now that shooting is actually taking place, those same people are silent.

But shouldn’t the chancellor at least step in front of the cameras in her usual consensus-oriented manner and say something about a "comprehensive clarification"? About "checking it out" and "we’re looking into it"? Regardless of whether these massive human rights violations prove to be true, there should be an investigation – for moral reasons, but also for her own credibility.

When AfD leader Frauke Petry called for a shoot-to-kill order at Europe’s borders, there was an outcry in the media and among politicians. Now that shooting is actually taking place, those same people are silent.

For Frauke Petry and her "Alternative for Germany," the incidents are a political gift. Already after the reports about shootings at the Slovak-Hungarian border on Monday night, the AfD spokeswoman gloated about the silence of others on Facebook.

A Slovakian customs officer had shot and injured a woman from Syria. The sat with other migrants and suspected smugglers in one of four cars that the border guards tried to stop. After threats from the driver, the police officers fired shots at the tires, hitting the woman, a police spokeswoman said. The exact circumstances are still unclear.

The fact that no politician took a public position on these incidents allowed Petry to benefit from them without being contradicted. And therein, too, lies the problem of public silence. Because it actually shakes the credibility of the EU.

Once again, the impression is growing that the European Union and the German government have bought their way out of responsibility with the deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: The EU gives billions and leaves the rest to Turkey. And because no one wants to jeopardize the already shaky deal, they keep quiet about the human rights violations. Because if the agreement were to fail, Europe would have to take in the refugees again itself – and the European governments have no interest in that.

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