Turkey presents own project for use of EU refugee fund to Brussels

Turkey presents own project for use of EU refugee fund to Brussels

Turkey presents own project for use of EU refugee fund to Brussels

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Voicing unease with calls on Turkey to open its border to take in tens of thousands more Syrian refugees fleeing regime advances around Aleppo, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan has said Turkey has sent the EU a package of project plans for the 3 billion-euro refugee fund.

“Those who have been giving advice to Turkey. First you should open your hearts to these people. Look after these people. We are seeing countries getting involved in the issue only when the problem begins to hurt them. But international solidarity is a must,” Akdoğan told reporters on Feb. 12 during a visit to the Öncüpınar refugee camp, named “Container City,” in the border province of Kilis.

“As Turkey, we have presented to the EU a package of investments to be funded by the 3 billion euros. This assistance will not be made to Turkey. It is for the Syrian refugees,” he added.

Last week, EU countries finally approved a fund of 3 billion euros for Turkey to improve living conditions for refugees in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them migrate on to Europe. All 28 EU countries signed off on the proposal at a meeting in Brussels after Italy dropped its opposition to the plan, which was first agreed with Ankara in November 2015.

On Feb. 8, speaking at a joint press conference with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had also said Ankara would inform Brussels this week on the initial projects it plans for the 3 billion euros.

In response to questions, Merkel refrained from presenting a clear timeframe for delivery of the EU funds.
Akdoğan, meanwhile, said the refugees were being accommodated in nine camps just across the border with Syria. 

“There are nine camps on the other side of the border accommodating 100,000 people, including up to 35,000 new arrivals,” he said, noting that a tenth camp was being built three kilometers inside Syrian territory.  

Akdoğan said it was important to create a “civilian settlement area” on the Syrian side of the border but insisted that Turkey was maintaining its “open-door policy” towards refugees. 

He said that in contrast with the early days of the regime offensive on Aleppo, there was no longer a major buildup of refugees on the frontier, with those in need now accommodated in the camps.

“Right now there is no accumulation [of refugees] on the border. No big mass trying to cross the border,” Akdoğan added. 

The United Nations and the European Union have both urged Turkey to let in refugees fleeing the government onslaught. 

But Turkey, already hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees, has so far refused to let the new wave into the country, instead providing humanitarian assistance across the border.