FM Çavuşoğlu says Turkey cannot host any more refugees

FM Çavuşoğlu says Turkey cannot host any more refugees

FM Çavuşoğlu says Turkey cannot host any more refugees

A police officer takes a picture of a migrant who arrived in a closed camp of Kleidi near Promahonas, Northern Greece, on March 21, 2020. (AFP Photo)

Turkey cannot host any more refugees, either from Syria or beyond, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 23, in an opinion piece in the Financial Times.

In an op-ed titled  "EU inaction on Syrian refugees is a stain on human conscience," Çavuşoğlu said the European Union's claim to be a "world power that stood as a beacon for human rights and international law," will be invalid if nothing is done about Greece's treatment of refugees.

“I have long cautioned the EU not to be complacent about the challenges it faces, including the rise of extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism," his piece read.

“We have called for a revamped international system to manage the huge displacement of people fleeing conflicts such as Syria’s. We have painstakingly tried to convince the EU to help us resolve such conflicts and address the fragilities that surround Europe.”

Çavuşoğlu said the situation in Idlib is similar to the one in Gaza, Palestine. He said “nine years into the conflict, the province of Idlib has become a ‘new Gaza’, where 3.5 million people are sequestered.”

He also touched on the Syrian regime’s massive military offensive since last May and Turkey’s operations in northern Syria.

“When Turkish soldiers were attacked in February, we retaliated forcefully and showed what it means to attack a NATO country,” he said, noting that “one million people had begun marching towards NATO and Europe’s southeastern boundary, the Turkish-Syrian border.”

Çavuşoğlu also pointed out the cost of Ankara’s efforts for the Syrian people in Turkey and in Syria as over $40 billion, saying “we cannot continue to protect the borders of NATO and Europe alone.”

Stain on human conscience

Stressing the reasons behind Turkey’s decision to open its borders with Greece and Bulgaria to allow refugees to pass into Europe, he said Turkey was never intended as their final destination.

“We cannot force them to stay. Our unheeded calls for the EU to take this wave of migrants seriously, and to comply with the refugee deal it struck with Turkey in 2016, reached the boiling point with the latest Idlib displacement.”

He also criticized the EU for not acting against the exaggerated responses of Greek forces against refugees.

“What followed is a disgrace to the EU and a stain on human conscience. The EU and its parliamentarians did little more than watch on as Greek forces sprayed tear gas and fired on people at their border. Greece also suspended refugee applications. The UN was critical; the EU not. People died, scores were wounded and European prestige was damaged globally.”

He pointed out the EU’s failure to “develop a policy that projects peace, prosperity and dignity to its near-abroad” and accused the union of not working “earnestly with Turkey to achieve that.”

Finding common ground

“Building fortresses does not stop people running for their lives. Solidarity with a wrongdoing EU member, Greece, also cannot trump sound policy,” he said, calling the EU to find common ground to address these problems.

“If the EU really is striving to be a geopolitical union, this is how it could be done,” he added.

Çavuşoğlu also underlined that EU's demeanor that "alienates" Turkey is the biggest policy folly in generations.

“Turkey, the U.K., and the EU must come together to stabilize our common neighborhood, while the EU also expedites Turkey’s membership process," he added.