Turkey warns of new migrant wave in Europe
Turkey will open its borders with Europe if a safe zone in Syria fails to actualize, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, blaming the international community, especially the European Union, for not providing enough support and financial assistance for Syrian refugees.
“We have received people running away from barrel bombs with open arms. We did not open our borders to just 200 refugees like some countries in the West did. Today, these countries thank us. It is an honor to us even though they provided zero support to us,” Erdoğan said Sept. 5 in a speech at an event of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
Turkey’s plan is to establish a safe zone where Syrian refugees and asylum seekers will live in more humanitarian conditions in houses to be built by Turkey and with the financial and logistic assistance of other countries, rather than tents or container cities, the president said.
He added that necessary talks to establish such a safe zone were conducted with many countries, including the U.S., Russia, Germany and the U.K.
But if the process stalls, Turkey will have to “open its borders,” the president said.
The amount of money Turkey spent on Syrian refugees has already surpassed $40 billion, the president said.
Financial assistance coming from the international community does not go into Turkey’s national coffers, but is used by organizations such as the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), he added.
“Up until now, about 3 billion euros were sent [to Turkey] for support. But our [spending] is on a much different level. They did not keep their promises, but we will continue to take these steps whether they provide support or not.”
Erdoğan was referring to a 2016 deal in which the EU agreed to provide Turkey a financial aid package of 6 billion euros for the care of Syrian refugees in the country. The Turkish government says there is a delay in the delivery of this assistance.
Some 350,000 Syrian refugees have returned to their homeland, to regions where Turkey has provided security, Erdoğan stressed.
“But we do not find this enough,” he added.
“We will be relieved as Turkey if such a thing comes to life,” he said. “This is a very good offer.”
Turkey’s offer, however, did not receive an affirmative response, but efforts regarding this will continue, Erdoğan said.
“This journey can take us to different places. If [the process] does not go on anymore, we will have to open our borders,” he stressed.
“If you are going to provide support, then do it. If not, we will put up with this at some point. Are we going to be the only ones bearing with this burden?” Erdoğan said.
The president also pointed to the possible migration flock from Syria’s Idlib, saying Turkey faces a threat on this issue.
“We are trying to ensure security in Idlib, with close cooperation with Russia, for [Syrians] to live in their own homes. On the other hand, we are taking steps to make the Syrian lands, between the east of River Euphrates and the Iraqi border, more secure,” he said.
“Turkey aims to reach an agreement with the U.S. regarding this. But our past experiences push us to act on the safe side” he added.
Turkey cannot stay silent when facing such a migration flow, Erdoğan stressed.
“We are determined to de facto start the safe zone establishment in the east of Euphrates, until the final week of September,” he said. He added that the ideal way to establish the safe zone is to do it with U.S. but if this does not happen, “Turkey has its own plans.”
“If such a ground is not established and our preparations are completed, we will undertake this on our own,” he said.
Meanwhile, a third joint flight was made with two Turkish and two U.S. helicopters within the scope of first phase implementations of the safe zone in the east of Euphrates in Syria, the Defense Ministry said on Sept. 5.