Turkey takes measures against refugee flows from Iraq, Syria

Turkey takes measures against refugee flows from Iraq, Syria

Turkey takes measures against refugee flows from Iraq, Syria

REU Photo

Turkey said Oct. 17 that it was taking necessary measures against a possible refugee influx from Iraq and Syria, as an operation was launched to take Iraq’s Mosul back from jihadists and Turkey-backed Syrian rebels indicated their next target was Syria’s al-Bab following the capture of Dabiq on Oct. 16.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Oct. 17 that Turkey could end up hosting hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Iraqi city of Mosul if the U.S.-backed operation against jihadist groups is conducted incorrectly, adding that terrorist attacks could also increase as a result of the offensive.

“If something goes wrong in Mosul, the only place for hundreds of thousands of devastated people to go to will be Turkey. Turkey is ready for that, but our concern is not to cause any distress to local people to force them to flee their country,” Kurtulmuş said Oct. 17 after a cabinet meeting.

Kurtulmuş’s statement came as the United Nations warned that clashes in Mosul could push around 100,000 locals to leave their homes for Turkey and Syria. 

“The UNHCR is concerned that events in Mosul may cause up to 100,000 Iraqis to flee toward Syria and Turkey,” Reuters quoted the UNHCR as saying. “Preparedness plans are underway in Syria to receive up to 90,000 Iraqi refugees.”

The deputy prime minister stated that the operation aiming to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had been advancing in accordance with Turkey’s general expectations. 

“The operation is advancing in accordance with Turkey’s general outlook, but we are prepared to take precautions against any unexpected developments,” he said. “If external forces which do not belong to the city, such as Hashd al-Shaabi or the PYD [Democratic Union Party], are brought there, it will change all the political balance of Mosul and sabotage the search for a solution,” he said.

“Nobody should seek to foster ethnic or sectarian politics by taking advantage of the current disorder. We are closely following the Mosul operation. Turkey has a plan B and C. We attach importance to preventing ethnic politics from dominating the region and [resulting in] sectarian segregation,” he added.

Turkey has repeatedly warned that the operation in Mosul could unleash sectarian strife. Ankara has been locked in a row with Baghdad about the presence of Turkish troops at a camp in northern Iraq and over who should take part in the assault on Iraq’s second-biggest city.

Refugee camps could be set up in areas taken from ISIL in Syria

Meanwhile, Kurtulmuş said that the capture of Dabiq in northern Syria would further help Turkey’s efforts to build a safe zone in the region, expressing Ankara’s demand that the international community help establish a refugee camp in the area. 

“We, as Turkey, are practically turning this area into a safe zone which could also bring about the establishment of a [refugee] camp with the consent of the international community,” Kurtulmuş said. “You can transport people to the camps but afterwards if one [country] destroys all these camps and kills people, then the international community will not be able to handle this.”   

Kurtulmuş’s statement is in line with Ankara’s long-term demand for the establishment of a safe zone between Marea and Jarablus and a no-fly zone so that refugees will not be threatened. 

An offensive launched by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) nearly two months ago resulted in the clearing of an area of around 1,250 square kilometers in northern Syria from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkish army-backed FSA troops captured Dabiq from the jihadists ahead of an expected move on another strategic town, al-Bab, 20 kilometers away.

“With the liberation of Dabiq, Kilis and nearby provinces will feel relieved,” Kurtulmuş said. Kilis, on the border of Syria, is no longer within the range of ISIL’s missiles after jihadists were pushed further south. 

The FSA has taken control of another nine residential areas near Dabiq, military sources said, noting that border security between Azaz and Marea had almost been completely provided and that the road network from east to west and north to south had been secured as well.