Europe will share the ‘burden of refugees’: Erdoğan
“We continue our struggle to resolve the humanitarian crisis caused by millions of displaced people from Syria in our country and to secure our soil. Both issues are of vital importance to us. We are assuming this burden by ourselves,” Erdoğan said.
“The West’s fancy words, which stem from a fear of migrants, do not have a concrete result in reality,” he added.
The president’s remarks came during a speech at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) provincial advisory council meeting.
“They say, ‘Do not open the gates.’ I told them months ago that ‘if you do not share this burden with us, we will open the gates.’ But they thought we were joking,” Erdoğan said, referring to Western countries whom he accuses of not giving Turkey enough help regarding the migration influx.
“Now that these gates are open, [we] have been receiving phone call after phone call. They say, ‘Close the gates.’ It is a done deal,” he added.
The president also said meetings with Germany and Bulgaria had been scheduled regarding the migration toward Europe.
Erdoğan also said European countries who did not share the burden of refugees will be held to account, adding that that they would answer to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their treatment against displaced people.
Without naming any specific Western nation, Erdoğan said countries that fired tear gas would “have to give their account to the international community.”
Greek police fired tear gas to repel hundreds of stone-throwing migrants who tried to force their way across the border Turkey, with thousands more behind them.
The Greek government called the confrontations a threat to national security. “Do not attempt to enter Greece illegally – you will be turned back,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Twitter after a security meeting on the situation.
Ankara has dismissed Greek criticism of its decision to open the border and has condemned Greece’s response to the migrants.
Number of migrants flocking to Europe will be in ‘millions’ soon
The president also said that the number of migrants leaving Turkey for Europe would soon reach into the millions.
“For years, we have called for the establishment of a safe zone. No European country approached us about contributing or gave any concrete support. The number of those heading toward Europe has reached the hundreds and thousands, and there will be more,” he said. “The figure will soon be in the millions.”
Turkey said on Feb. 27 it would let migrants cross its borders into Europe, despite a commitment to hold them in its territory under a 2016 deal with the European Union.
The number of irregular migrants leaving Turkey for Europe has reached 117,677 on March. 2, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Twitter.
Ankara’s turnabout, which came after an air strike killed 34 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, appears to be part of an effort to force Brussels to offer more support in tackling the refugee crisis stemming from Syria’s civil war.
“We either give an honorable life to these people in their own lands, or everybody will have their share of this burden,” he said.
“The period of ex parte sacrifice has come to an end,” he said.
Turkey, which hosts around 3.7 million Syrian refugees, has repeatedly said it cannot handle any more. Under the 2016 deal, the European Union has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara agreeing to stem the influx of migrants into Europe.