Turkey keeps its door open for Syrian influx

Turkey keeps its door open for Syrian influx

Turkey keeps its door open for Syrian influx

Syrians walk after crossing to Turkey by boat on the Orontes river of the Turkish-Syrian border. REUTERS photo

Turkey is struggling to stay committed to its open-door policy on Syrian refugees as the number of Syrians taking shelter in Turkey climbs to 100,363, passing the maximum number Turkey had earlier claimed it would physically be able to handle, according to information from the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

Ankara will keep its open door policy for Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country, a Turkish official said, but added the 100,000 refugee limit number Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had stated previously was a physical barrier as the country had logistic difficulties with hosting that many refugees.

Yet Turkey is making an effort to attend to additional Syrian refugees by setting up four more refugee camps in Gaziantep. Turkish officials estimate nearly 130,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey with nearly 30,000 of them unregistered and staying in hotels or apartments in the country. AFAD said they had set up five tent cities in Hatay, two in Şanlıurfa, three in Gaziantep and one each in Osmaniye, Kahramanmaraş and Adıyaman along with a container city in Kilis.

Message from EU

The EU said it would continue assisting Turkey in coping with an influx of refugees from Syria but made no offer to take them in. “Clearly we need to concentrate on the shelter of refugees there,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said during talks among the EU’s 27 foreign ministers in Luxembourg. “These refugees don’t want to leave their country forever, they want to return to their country as quickly as possible,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

His Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn agreed. “We can’t take planes and transport these people to Europe and say the problem is settled,” he said.

The ministers were responding to a call by Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bağış for Europe to do more to help Ankara tackle the influx. “Europe should start thinking about the people who have fled Syria into Turkey. Europe is in a state of paralysis. There is no progress because it is completely fixated on the euro crisis,” Bağış said in an interview with German daily Die Welt. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said Brussels had been helping Turkey “for some time” and would continue. Turkey’s problem was that it needed time to prepare facilities, she said.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch said Turkish and Iraqi authorities should re-open border crossings, where more than 10,000 Syrians have been stranded for weeks, and allow all those wishing to seek asylum to cross without delay. Blocking people from crossing international borders to claim asylum breaches international law, the group said Oct. 14, while praising Turkey’s effort for hosting 100,000 refugees.

Turkey currently delivers humanitarian aid, medicine and food to nearly 10,000 Syrians that have been waiting on the Syrian side of the border. Turkey prefers not to load camps in Hatay since the city is an entranceway on the border for Syrians who are fleeing the civil war in their homeland.