Turkey embraces more refugees

Updated: 2014-09-26 11:08


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Turkey embraces more refugees

Kurdish Syrian refugees stand in a truck at the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 25, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]


ANKARA -- Turkey, home to 1.5 million Syrian refugees, is prepared to embrace hundreds of thousands more in the face of escalating fight between militants of the Islamic State (IS) and opposing groups in Syria and Iraq.

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The US-led coalition attacks on IS targets in Syria and Iraq is expected to trigger a new wave of refugee flow to Turkey as well, straining Turkish capacity to handle refugees.

"We are waiting for a new wave of refugees," said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus whose portfolio includes emergency management agency AFAD overseeing refugees in Turkey, adding that Turkey has made necessary preparation for new refugees.

However, Turkish analysts believed the refugee problem that poses significant challenges to Turkey's security, economy and social fabric are not being handled in a serious manner.

"First of all, there are legal loopholes and jurisdictional ambiguities on refugees," Alparslan Akkus, Turkish expert in Ankara, said.

He added that so many agencies and ministries have all involved in addressing different aspects of the refugees.

"None of them has experienced on refugee matters and there is lack of coordination among all," Akkus underlined.

The analyst suggested that Turkey should immediately establish a new ministry specifically on immigration and refugees.


Turkey's uneasiness with increasing number of refugees led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express his frustration to world community this week at the United Nations.

Speaking at the General Assembly on Wednesday, Erdogan said there has been great pressure on Turkey's borders in terms of refugee flow.

"In addition to 1.3 million Syrian refugees of all racial and sectarian colors we have accepted, last week we received more than 140,000 Syrian Kurds who fled from IS attacks," Erdogan told the audience in the General Assembly.

"We still temporarily host 70,000 Yazidis from Iraq," he added.

Speaking at the US think tank, Council on Foreign Relations, earlier, Erdogan lashed out at Western countries, saying that Western countries received only 130,000 Syrian refugees in contrast to 1.5 million Turkey hosts.

Stressing that Turkey has spent four billion US dollars on refugees, Erdogan said "if you ask me how much support we've received from the world in total, it's 150 million dollars."

Most of the refugees this week fled the fighting in Kobani, a Kurdish town across Turkish province Sanliurfa on Syrian side of the border that is home to some 400,000 people.

Turkish media reported on Thursday that the IS laid a siege on another village in Qamishli in Syria that is close to Turkish town Nusaybin in the southern province of Mardin.

If the IS attacks on Qamishli with a population of some one million, Turkey will be facing hundreds of thousands of refugees from that part of Syrian border as well.

More refugees will put Turkey in a jam as it runs out of the spaces in existing camps and the new temporary shelters are not enough to accommodate all the incoming refugees.

Most are let go to move in with relatives in Turkey after screening for security and registration process.


Turkey is lobbying to set up a buffer zone inside Iraq and Syria, protected by no-fly zone, in order to take care of refugees abroad rather in the Turkish territory.

However, Ankara needs the United Nations Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone which seems very difficult to obtain given the resistance from many members of the Security Council.

A well-informed source told Xinhua in Ankara that Turkish officials have been negotiating with the US on setting up a safe zone along Turkish border with Syria and Iraq in exchange for more cooperation with the US-led coalition against the IS.

"The use of Incirlik base in Adana province in southern Turkey for fighter planes in attacks on the IS as well as broader over flight permissions are on the table," he said on the condition of anonymity.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters last week that the US is "much closer (to Turkey's views than before)" on setting up a safe zone to protect civilians.


"With refugee flow, all kind of problems we see in Syria will be carried over the border to Turkish side," Sedat Laciner, professor of international relations, said.

He warned that terror groups may very well infiltrate into Turkey under the disguise of refugees and may target opposing groups in Turkish soil or attack on Turkish interests directly.

Laciner also noted that increasing number of refugees would put huge strain on Turkey's health, education and social services while helping surge of prices.

In fact, the prices of basic food staples and water have recently risen in Turkish town Suruc where Syrian Kurds come to escape attacks by the IS, Turkish daily Zaman reported on Thursday.

Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, the head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center (USGAM), said Turkey need the cooperation of regional and global partners in order to cope with growing refugee problem.

"Ankara cannot handle this on its own," he told Xinhua.

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