Turkey: A warm home for victims of conflicts

NUR ÖZKAN ERBAY
ANKARA
Published 26.07.2019 00:13

Turkey continues to be a warm home for millions of Syrians who fled from war, persecution and torture, just as it has been for the past eight years. However, on the other side, with its location at a migration crossroads, Turkey is also gradually becoming an important destination for illegal migration, which, as it is the case for every country, causes humanitarian, economical and security expenses to the country.

In the past few days, 43,000 illegal migrants including Bangladeshis, Algerians, Afghans, Pakistanis and Syrians were deported to their countries, after a series of operations in Istanbul. Among them, there were also 1,000 unregistered Syrians who were not deported but instead sent to camps within the borders. These precautions and operations were projected by some circles under the headline, "Syrian refugees in Turkey are deported to their countries by force."

Following these operations, allegations that Turkey sent Syrians out of the blue on the other side of the border began to spread on social media. Nonetheless, there are no registered Syrians that are designated a temporary protected status among the ones who were deported. Determined unregistered Syrians, among whom there are also some that have been involved in major crimes, are being sent to camps.

The number of migrants coming to Turkey has reached 577,000 with a growth of 23.8% last year. According to the numbers of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), among foreign migrants that came to Turkey, Iraqi citizens ranked first with 23.6%. This was followed respectively by Afghans with 9.6%, Syrians with 8.4% and Iranians with 6.8%.

Turkey detected 163,000 irregular migrants this year, 43,000 of whom were sent back to their countries so far. It is expected that a further 7,000 migrants will also be deported in the future.

There are 3,634,000 Syrians in Turkey that have "temporary protected status" since 2011. Through the updates, information about the Syrians is registered as to where and in which city they live, what their blood type is, etc., under 57 parameters. An increasing trend is seen in the number of unregistered Syrians in the last year, especially in the city of Istanbul.

While 547,000 Syrians were registered in Istanbul, other Syrians have flocked to Turkey's largest city from other provinces. According to the statement issued Monday by the governorate of Istanbul there are 547,479 Syrians living under temporary protection status in Istanbul.

Meanwhile, Turkish authorities are keen to keep the migration situation "under control." In this sense, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu emphasized that Turkey began efforts to manage the orderly migration of migrants and registration of Syrian refugees eight years ago, and succeeded with what the rest of the world could not. According to Soylu, several provinces are excluded from this registration process, as is the case in Istanbul now.

"We said that we do not accept registration in Istanbul except for in humanitarian cases," he said. As the interior minister also underlined, unregistered Syrians in Istanbul will not be deported out of Turkey but will be sent to camps, upon discussions on Istanbul governorate's measures to prevent illegal residence in the province.

On the other side, the governor of Ankara, Vasip Şahin, said in a statement made to Daily Sabah that there are still 85,000 Syrians in Ankara, all of whom are registered.

"We have no problems regarding Syrians in Ankara," Şahin added.

The Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) deputy from Gaziantep province and former European Union Deputy Minister Ali Şahin said, "We are located in a region of migration, a geography that is the gateway of all civilizations. We are a republic in an Ottoman commonwealth. Just as a sunflower turns its face to the sun, this region turns it face to the persecuted," stressing that the establishment of a ministry of migration is of high importance. "Those being part of this region and civilizational heritage cannot be described as ‘the other.' Syrians as well are people of our geography. We are talking about a civilization culture that gave their daughters the name ‘Turkey' just 80 years ago," noted Şahin.

In fact, this sentence describes what the people of both countries mean to each other despite the perception that "Turkey deports Syrians" circulating in a range of media outlets, especially on social media.

In order to comprehend what the 4 million Syrians for whom the doors were opened after the war mean for Turkey, it is necessary to look at the incidents from an angle of conscience, just as the country itself does.

Turkey shares a long border with Syria and many provinces of the two countries share the population that is coming from similar backgrounds and even have mutual family ties.

"Kilis neighbors Aleppo, such as Azez neighbors Gaziantep and so does Şanlıurfa to Ayn al Arab... The people living here do not belong to a different geography. Before there were borders, these people belonged already to this land," explained Şahin, as the deputy of Gaziantep, hosting almost 500,000 Syrians after the war.

Şahin, who conveyed a conversation that took place on a day during the Ramadan Bayram in the Nizip camp set up for Syrians, with an 80-year-old Syrian man whose name was "Türkiye," the Turkish name for Turkey. He said that on his next visit there he found 15 more people with the same name, "Türkiye."

"… A young Syrian singing a Turkish folk song on the broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), sang while we were living in Syria we ran upon seeing a vehicle coming from Turkey to embrace it. We yearned for Turkey and felt as if we were a part of it. The Assad regime described us as Turkish leftovers. We were called Turkish leftovers for a hundred years," added Şahin.

As deputy of Gaziantep, Ali Şahin underlines in his words, the people belonging to the same civilization live in harmony and brotherhood by protecting the heritage left from the Ottomans. This did not change during the Syrian war. Turkey protected its Syrian brothers without regard to their ethnic groups whether they are Kurds, Turkmens or Arabs and still continues to do so. As it will continue to do forever...

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