Turkey's humanitarian action for Syrians unique

DAILY SABAH
ANKARA
Published 25.02.2019 00:06

Turkey has been carrying out significant effort to support Syrians since the beginning of the civil war and is now providing them living space within their homeland.

"We are carrying out the world's largest humanitarian mission," Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said late Saturday at a meeting in northern Trabzon province, which was attended by representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

"Today, with our gendarmerie, police, soldiers, teachers, judges, prosecutors and doctors, we are trying to demonstrate to tens of thousands people living in Syria's Jarabulus, Azaz, al-Bab what peaceful life would be like," he said.

Next month marks the eighth anniversary of an uprising against Syria's Bashar Assad regime that evolved into an all-out civil war. Since 2011, Turkey has received a constant flow of displaced Syrians fleeing the conflict, and their numbers have expanded from mere thousands to millions. The number of Syrian refugees, who Turkish officials refer to as "guests," has reached more than 3.5 million. Turkey has so far spent more than $37.5 billion on the well-being of this displaced population.

Soylu stressed that Turkey couldn't be a mere spectator of a humanitarian crisis ongoing within its historical neighborhood, adding that the country has been exerting efforts and has no bad intentions "such as Western countries did in Africa," referring to the colonization of the continent.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 500,000 people and forced more than 5 million people to flee, while some 7 million remain internally displaced.

Refugees mainly took shelter in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon with Turkey hosting the largest number of Syrian refugees. Some of them have sought to reach Europe via the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, but hundreds died en route to Greece and other littoral countries. Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has led the efforts to shelter refugees. Originally set up to help disaster victims, AFAD was tasked with accommodating refugees amid the Syrian crisis.

Modern camps provide refugees access to all basic services, from education to vocational training courses. However, with regard to the unstable situation caused by the ongoing internal conflict in Syria, Turkey is dealing with a long-term integration policy through work and residence permits.

Turkey has so far reached out to more than 600,000 Syrian children to provide them with an education. They attend public schools, schools run by charities and schools set up in some refugee camps.

The retu

rns of Syrian refugees have been possible recently thanks to Turkey's two operations: Operation Olive Branch and Operation Euphrates Shield. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 to clear western Euphrates provinces such as al-Ban and Jarabulus from Daesh and the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG). Operation Olive Branch, however, was launched in 2018, toward northwestern Afrin province, again to clear the region from the terrorist elements. Both these operations proved successful and achieved their goals of bringing peace to the region.

Following the operations, Turkey continued its activities in the provinces by putting emphasis on reconstruction, infrastructure and the formation of local administrations. The end result is rewarding for Turkey as Syrian refugees who were displaced from the region started to return to their liberated hometowns and restart their lives.

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