Turkey’s Erdoğan asks UN: Are you mocking us?
The United Nations’ demand from Turkey to open its border to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on its border has prompted a stern response from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who accused the world body of being ineffective over the refugee crisis and not shouldering the burden like Turkey.
“The event taking place in Syria has now turned into a deportation, genocide. It is exemplary that those who regard refugees as bogeymen have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad regime, which is the reason for this problem. What does the United Nations say? ‘Open your door to those massed at your door.’ What are you for then? What is your use? Is it that easy?” Erdoğan asked on Feb. 10.
“We have taken 3 million Syrians and Iraqis into our home. How many did you take? Which country took them in?” he asked, adding that the U.N. had provided $455 million to Turkey compared to the $10 billion Turkey had spent on the refugees since 2011.
Without openly naming them, Erdoğan quoted foreign officials as saying, “Bring your project, we will give support.”
“The project, the income, the camps, everything is in the open. They are personally coming, seeing and visiting and still saying ‘Bring a plan, bring a project and bring a thingamajig.’ Give it up, are you mocking us?” Erdoğan asked.
The war in Syria against al- Assad’s government has killed more than 250,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes since it began in 2011. More recently, a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive around Aleppo sent tens of thousands of people fleeing to the Turkish border in recent days.
Turkey, already home to about 3 million refugees - 2.5 million of them Syrians - is providing assistance to the new wave of refugees at displaced persons camps on the Syrian side of the border. It has kept a key border crossing for refugees closed, prompting the UNHCR on Feb. 9 to call on Turkey to admit “all civilians who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection as they have done since the start of this crisis.”
Last week, EU countries approved a 3-billion-euro fund for Turkey to improve living conditions for refugees in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them migrate on to Europe. All 28 EU countries signed off on the proposal at a meeting in Brussels after Italy dropped its opposition to the plan, which was first agreed to with Ankara in November 2015.
On Feb. 8, speaking at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also said Turkey would inform Brussels this week on the initial projects it has planned for the 3 billion euros from the EU.
In response to questions, Merkel refrained from presenting a clear timeframe for delivery of the EU funds.
“We need a visible first project. It doesn’t help a child from Syria that is a refugee here, or a Turkish class that has to share its room with Syrian refugees to say we have pledged 3 billion. They want to see a school in the city and fast,” Merkel said.
“We need to work on this. We need to make sure there are not too many bureaucratic hurdles. Rather the refugees have to see the benefits quickly and without bureaucracy,” she said, while calling for fast action from Ankara to improve the situation for refugees in Turkey.
Also on Feb. 10, Süleyman Tapsız, the governor for the border province of Kilis, said Turkey allowed in 12 Syrians who had been seriously injured in Russian and Syrian bombings near the town of Tel Rifaat in northern Syria. One of them had since died while the others were in stable condition, he told NTV television in an interview.
The governor denied accusations that Turkey had closed its borders to the refugees, insisting that the country had chosen to assist the new arrivals at the displaced peoples’ camps just across the border, but would let them in if the need arose later.
“Our doors are not shut,” Tapsız said. “There is no need to take them in because all of their needs are being taken care of.”
Tapsız said, however, that Turkey had made all preparations in case it became necessary to take them in, including preparing camps and deploying mobile units to process the refugees. He acknowledged that conditions on the other side of the border were “difficult,” but said the camps were constantly being improved and new ones were under construction.