Turkey to seek int’l support for refugees
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Daily News Photo / Selahattin SönmezTurkey will seek international support for the increasing number of Syrians flocking to Turkey as the exodus from the violence-wrecked country is rapidly increasing with some 9,000 Syrians massing on the border with Turkey, waiting for more camps to be set up on the border.
“We will seek to activate the relevant bodies of the United Nations to deal with the refugee problem,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said yesterday at a joint press conference following talks with chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.
Davutoğlu will submit a presentation on the current situation of events in Syria and growing refugee problem during the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York on Aug. 30.
Davutoğlu will depart for New York tomorrow to participate in the ministerial meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Aug. 30, when the council will focus on the humanitarian impact of the civil war in neighboring Syria with both permanent and temporary members present.
Four neighbors of Syria have also been invited to the meeting, but Iraq will not participate, Turkish diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. The humanitarian tragedy in Syria has grown in recent months, Davutoğlu said yesterday, noting that the number of Syrians who had fled violence and taken shelter in Turkey since March 2011 now exceeded 80,000.
‘Force majeure’ behind mass on border
As of late yesterday afternoon, around 9,000 Syrian refugees were massed on the border with Turkey, waiting for more camps to be set up to accommodate those fleeing the fighting in Syria, diplomatic sources told the Daily News.
“As of now, 6,000 refugees are waiting at the al-Salama post, which lies north of Aleppo, facing the Turkish border post of Öncüpınar near Kilis in the southeast; 2,000 others are at the Bab al-Hawa border gate on the other side of Reyhanlı, the town that is home to the Cilvegözü border gate [in Hatay]. And some 1,000 are on the other side of Yayladağı [in Hatay] at the border crossing of Kassab,” a Turkish diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“It is not because we stopped them from crossing or we didn’t accept them. We have a force majeure; there is no place we can provide for these people at the moment,” the diplomat said, citing the lack of space in tent cities and camps.
Turkey has previously said it can only provide refuge for 100,000 Syrians; if it were to accept the 9,000 presently massed at its frontiers, it would only have the capacity to accept 10,000 more.
“One-hundred thousand is important as a symbolic figure. But this does not mean that Turkey would not accept the 100,001st refugee [fleeing Syria],” Davutoğlu told reporters over the weekend.
Turkey has, meanwhile, started to provide humanitarian aid to thousands stranded near the border as it continues to build two more camps in the provinces of Gaziantep and Hatay with a total capacity of 10,000 to shelter the newcomers.
‘No matter what their ethnicity and religion is’
Turkey wishes to fulfill its duty of humanity, brotherhood and friendship to Syrians no matter what their ethnicity and religion is, Davutoğlu also said yesterday.
“But, on the other hand, there is a big burden brought by the increase in this number of refugees. Within this framework, this burden should not be shared only by neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq but by the international community, too,” he said, adding that measures should be reviewed for possible big waves of refugee influx.
The head of the Prime Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), Fuat Oktay, also said the cost of Turkey’s efforts for Syrian refugees would total around $300 million.
While in New York, Davutoğlu is expected to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain and France, the same diplomatic sources said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not expected to participate in the meeting; instead, U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Susan Rice, who is also a top foreign policy adviser to the U.S. president, will represent her country at the meeting. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will chair the meeting as France is Security Council president for the month of August.
Davutoğlu confirms unrest over Syrian refugees
Davutoğlu yesterday implicitly confirmed a news report on a planned transfer of some Syrian refugees to different cities due to unrest experienced at their current locations. “Precautions might be taken in accordance with the conditions of cities,” Davutoğlu said in response to a question on the report.
Diplomatic sources speaking to the Daily News yesterday did not deny daily Hürriyet’s report yesterday which said that some refugees who crossed the border with a passport, meaning they can travel within Turkey as they wish, had caused unrest in the cities where they currently live. These people are not held in camps as they are from middle class or upper middle class who are able to travel with their own vehicles and rent houses, for example in Istanbul, the sources said.
“It is a matter of public order and the idea of transfer of these people has been floated a while ago. It is not, let’s say, a matter of terrorist motives of these people,” the same Turkish diplomat said, noting that it was natural for Turkey to take into account both its own citizens’ and Syrian refugees’ sensitivities over sectarian differences, as well as public order concerns.
However, the same diplomat did not confirm a claim in Hürriyet that Syrian refuges would not be sent to “seven cities considered as sensitive in regards to its Alevi population.”
Davutoğlu said it was normal to implement precautions for the refugees as their number increased and as they might cause social problems.
“Those who cross the border without a passport are kept in camps according to U.N. regulations,” he said and added that there was no visa regulation between Syria and Turkey and that it was normal to regulate the duration of stay of refugees with passports. “This does not signify a change of attitude toward refugees.”