Turkey faces growing refugee crisis

By bne IntelliNews September 18, 2015

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As if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t have enough on his plate already, the country is suffering from a growing refugee problem caused by fighting in the Middle East.

While the European Union (EU) member states are taking in miniscule numbers of refugees compared to the flood that are trying to get in – Slovakia offered to accept a mere 100 people last month – Turkey is already a temporary home to 2.2mn Syrian refugees. That has already cost the state $7.6bn, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on September 18 in Ankara at the Syria Coordination Council meeting.

And there are more just over the boarder in the Kurdish-controlled territories of Syria who might enter Turkey. Many Syrian Kurds have left their homes because of the violence. In August 2013, thousands of people from Hasakah province fled to Iraq's Kurdistan region. There are now almost 250,000 registered refugees from Syria in northern Iraq, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), reports Al Jazeera.

Erdogan has used the mounting humanitarian crisis to argue for a security zone within Syrian territory along the Turkish border, which has drawn a mixed reaction from the US administration. The Turkish government’s push for the buffer zone is seen by many as a political move by Erdogan against Kurdish minorities in his own country and a way to limit the political gains the Kurds have won in northern Iraq and Syria.

Erdogan used his speech at the G20 finance ministers and central bank governments’ two-day summit in Ankara between September 4-6 6 to lambast the West for not responding to the refugee crisis. “European countries that turned the Mediterranean into a grave for refugees are responsible for every refugee who lost their life,” he said.

Turkish coast guard forces saved 53,225 refugees this year in Turkish territorial waters in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas and a total of 274 people died while trying to reach the European countries, said Kurtulmus, adding that new developments in some Syrian cities such as Hama, Aleppo and Idlib bring the risk of new waves of hundred of thousands of refugees to Turkey. Kurtulmus also reiterated the Turkish government’s call to establish a security zone within Syrian territory along Turkish border.

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