The nine-year Syrian conflict has displaced millions of Syrians and driven more than five million into refugee camps. Those refugees have sometimes become hostages of the whims of countries they’ve fled to, whether in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq or Turkey. In the last few weeks Turkey has decided to use the refugees to get concessions from Europe, playing on the fears that European governments have towards another surge in asylum claims and refugees crossing in undocumented waves.The strange way in which Syrians became a kind of ping-pong ball to be used by European countries – which talk about international law and human rights – and NATO-member Turkey, is interesting considering that none of the states involved are treating the refugees within the normative guidelines that humanitarian laws envisioned. In the latest round of threats from Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Greece to “open the gates” so that Syrians could go to “other” European countries. Greece borders Turkey and has been the main transit point for more than a million Syrians since 2014. However, the EU came up with a novel solution to the refugee crisis after 2015 when more than a million people sought to get to Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed Syrians. Agreements were made that the EU would pay Ankara – more like bribe – to keep the refugees in Turkey. Billions of euros were sent from European states to Turkey.But Ankara knows the refugees can be used to get new concessions from Europe. It wants NATO support for its increasing military involvement in northern Syria. Ankara has launched attacks on Kurdish groups and also sought to slow down a Russian-backed Syrian regime offensive in Idlib, where there are almost a million people displaced from recent fighting. Turkey says it is hosting some four million Syrians and can’t take in more.Ankara’s overall goal is to work with Russia to acquire the S-400 air defense system and profit from the Russian-Turkish TurkStream pipeline. However, Moscow has been pressuring Turkey, with Russian media characterizing the country as being in a corner and accusing Erdogan of “militant rhetoric.” Six-hour talks last week between Erdogan and Putin sought to come to an agreement over the fighting in Idlib.Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell went to Ankara last week to attempt to make Turkey happy and prevent more refugees from being shoehorned onto Greece’s shores. Since Turkey opened its borders to refugees going to Greece last month, there have been heartbreaking scenes of them trying to cross. Turkey buses them to the Greek border but Greek riot police force them back.European leaders are trying to pay Ankara some cash to keep the refugees in Turkey. European Council head Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are meeting this week with Turkey to hammer out a deal. So far, a pittance of around $192 million has been sent to Ankara to aid the Syrians in the wake of the recent crisis. But Turkey wants more.The four million refugees have no say in their future. Turkey’s promises that they could re-settle in Syria have not materialized. Last year, Ankara told the UN that it would build cities in Kurdish areas of northern Syria to create a “buffer zone” where the mostly Arab refugees would be moved. Kurds claimed this was ethnic cleansing and an attempt to change the region’s demographics. But Turkey pushed the Kurds aside during offensives into Syria in January 2018 and October 2019, removing around 360,000 of them from the areas of Afrin and Tel Abyad. However, Ankara has not been able to build the hundreds of towns it claimed it would. The UN hasn’t come up with financing either.Turkey wants the UN, EU and NATO to support its role in Syria, but none of these groups have done what Ankara has asked. Syrian refugees can’t go to Europe from Turkey unless the EU will come up with a deal to take some of them. But lessons from 2015, when some countries such as Hungary closed their borders, loom large over the EU powers. They know that millions more refugees will lead to more populism – and calls for more Brexit-style campaigns by countries to leave. In that respect, the EU leaders need Turkey as much as Turkey needs them. And the refugees find themselves trapped in the middle.