Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan discuss Syrians' return
Turkish foreign minister on Dec. 17 discussed the voluntary return of Syrians with his counterparts from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan.
Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu met with Iraq’s Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Jordan’s Ayman Safadi and Lebanon’s Gebran Bassil in Geneva, Switzerland where he attended the three-day Global Refugee Forum.
“Discussed voluntary and safe returns of Syrians w/Mohamed Ali Alhakim FM of #Iraq, @AymanHSafadi FM of #Jordan and @Gebran_Bassil FM of #Lebanon. Our quadripartite cooperation will continue,” Çavuşoğlu said in a tweet, with a photo of four diplomats.
The U.N. refugee chief on Dec. 17 said that the UNHCR believes that the return of refugees to Syria can only be voluntary.
The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, spoke at a press conference with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on day two of the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, co-chaired by Turkey.
He said the forum with 3,000 participants registered is the biggest event the UNHCR has managed in its history.
Grandi was asked about what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said earlier in setting out a plan for returning Syrian refugees "quickly."
"Our position on return is always the same. Return can only be voluntary, but President Erdoğan said it very clearly himself, return can only be voluntary," said the UNHCR chief.
He added, "Our position has always been as well that if people return to Syria wherever they return they need and deserve humanitarian support, and I hope that this continues to be the case.
"So that wherever they go whether from Turkey, wherever they go preferably to their place of origin. That support has been difficult to obtain.”
Guterres for his part said, “Global forced displacement has been rising steadily in recent years.”
When he started in 2005 as High Commissioner for Refugees, there were 38 million people displaced in the world, the refugee agency was helping one million people go back home every year.
''Today, more than 70 million people are forcibly displaced, double the level of 20 years ago and 2.3 million more than just one year ago.''
The Turkish president said earlier on Dec. 17 that the safe return of refugees is key to permanent stability and normalization in Syria; just like anti-terror efforts.
"Return of refugees is as important as the fight against terrorism in the establishment of permanent stability and normalization in Syria," Erdoğan told the Global Refugee Forum.
He said: "Formulas to keep refugees in their own lands and repatriate those in Turkey need to be implemented."
Turkey has been carrying the responsibility for the refugees alone for nine years on behalf of the international community, he said, and stressed: "Keeping refugees within Turkish borders cannot be seen as the only solution to the Syrian refugee crisis."
"I am not saying this as the president of a country far from conflicts and irregular migration. According to the UN figures, I am the president of a country that hosts the most asylum seekers in the world," said Erdoğan.
Turkey is currently hosting five million refugees -- with 3.7 million of them Syrians -- and never forcefully repatriated any of them, he elaborated.
Erdoğan praises the Global Refugee Forum
Erdoğan also hailed the Global Refugee Forum held as a success and said he looks forward to its results.
“It was a successful work. I hope the results will be full of success,” Erdoğan told reporters following the forum’s conclusion.
During the forum, Erdoğan presented the book "Safe Harbour Turkey’s Call to the World: Cooperation for Refugees" to his counterparts and, in particular, to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the presidency's directorate of communications said on its website.
"The book elaborates on the migration waves received by Turkey regarded as a safe haven in the period before and after the proclamation of the Republic and stresses that Turkey has used all available means to support those in need affected by the tragedy in Syria.
“The book presents data and images about Turkey’s efforts for Syrian refugees in education, health, accommodation, employment, humanitarian aid and other fields from the past to present," it said.
Meanwhile, Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director, took to Twitter following Erdoğan’s remarks at the forum.
The world is confronted with an “unprecedented migration crisis,” Altun said.
“Only in the past 7 years, more than 20,000 people, most of them women and children, have lost their lives in the Mediterranean. The world must stop ignoring the bodies of human beings washing up on our shores!”
Noting Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees and is the country with the highest humanitarian aid per capita, Altun wrote: “No country should have the luxury to isolate itself from the migrant crisis of our time, this is a global and generational challenge.”
He called on the international community, saying: “Turkey keeping the refugees within its borders cannot be seen as the solution to this crisis.”
“The international community needs to find solutions that will keep refugees within their country and allow the return of refugees currently outside their home countries by creating safe zones.”