Europe indifferent to migration issue: Minister
Speaking at a meeting in the capital Ankara to address Turkey’s migration policy, Soylu said Europe considers migration a tool to weaken the Middle East and Turkey.
Stressing that Turkey “has hundreds of years of experience in migration management,” Soylu said Europe doesn’t offer a tangible solution to the issue.
Turkey hosts more than 4 million foreign nationals, including over 3 million Syrian refugees, he said.
Iraqis, Afghans and Iranians make up 462,000 of the overall foreign nationals, he added.
“Turkey’s migration and refugee policy has three principles: An open-door policy, principle of non-refoulement, and meeting the migrants’ fundamental and urgent needs,” he said.
“This means not returning people who come to our door, not sending back those who are at risk of persecution and death, and managing migration,” he added.
Euphrates Shield operation
“Once peace is restored in the Middle East, mass migration will be resolved,” he said, adding that Operation Euphrates Shield – an operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) backed by the Turkish military - was able to repatriate some Syrian refugees.
Soylu added that a total of 71,604 Syrians have returned to the areas liberated from ISIL.
More than 2,000 square kilometers of territory from ISIL was liberated in Operation Euphrates Shield, which started last August and ended this March.
Soylu added that since 2015, 2,513 Ahıska Turks who were living in Ukraine’s conflict areas have been brought to Turkey’s eastern Bitlis and Erzincan provinces.
Ahıska Turks, also known as Meskhetian Turks, were expelled from Georgia’s Meskheti region by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944.
The majority of Ahıska Turks in Ukraine fled their homes during the 2014 conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Turkey has voluntarily accepted thousands of Ahıska Turks and granted citizenship to 585 of those so far.