Turkey is a country that has long been a hope for the victims of the Syrian conflict, said Leyla Şahin Usta, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) vice president responsible for human rights, on Saturday amid rumors about the country's stance against Syrian refugees.
Speaking to a party program in the Keşan district of western Turkey's Edirne, Usta said the aim of the AK Party is to provide everyone living in Turkey with a peaceful life.
"Turkey is a country that became a hope for all victims of political and religious persecution around the world. Everyone, who is overlooked by the whole world, living under war or torture, is looking at Turkey with hope. In return, we [Turkey] try to do our best to be worthy of them and continue to be a hope," she said, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only leader who has spoken up for the world's oppressed, while others are only focusing on the material scope of the issues. "That's why we are standing behind our president," Usta said.
"We, as the party, are responsible for coming up with policies that are based on rights, laws and justice that would enable a Turkey where everyone is able to live alongside with each other peacefully without facing any rights violations," she said, adding that the AK Party works not only for Turkey but also for the whole world, to make it a better place.
About the rumors claiming that Turkey is deporting Syrian refugees, Usta said according to international law, a country cannot deport someone who would be in danger within his or her home country, unless they are involved in a crime. Reminding about Turkey's efforts to provide a safe home for the Syrians Usta also touched upon the idea of a safe zone in northern Syria.
"The safe zone is very important. Thanks to the regions that we've established [that are liberated from the terrorists], now, 330,000 Syrians returned to their hometowns," said Usta, adding that they are planning for larger numbers of people to return to their hometowns by liberating the region in future operations.
The biggest challenge for
Istanbul is irregular migration
Although Turkey has been proving to be quite successful in hosting such a large number of refugees, irregular migration remains a challenge for the country, especially when it comes to larger provinces like Istanbul.
Speaking to the Turkish language daily Sözcü, the Governor of Istanbul Ali Yerlikaya said the biggest matter for Istanbul is the struggle against irregular migration.
"There are 3,634,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, 547,000 of whom live in Istanbul. Our desire for Syrians is, as the regulation suggests, for them to live in the provinces where they are registered," said Yerlikaya.
Stating that there have been 27,000 actions taken regarding irregular migration only within the first six months of 2019, Yerlikaya said that 14,000 of these people have been deported to their own countries. He added that since July 12, 1,752 unregistered Syrians have been transferred to the provinces determined by the Interior Ministry. "Still," Yerlikaya underlined, "there is no change in our perspective and stance over Syrians. However, there is an existing migration regulation."
On Monday, the Istanbul governorate issued a statement saying that Syrian nationals who have not been registered by the government or those that were registered elsewhere in Turkey will be transferred to provinces determined by the Interior Ministry. Soon after the governorate's statement went live, several users on social media launched a smear campaign against Turkey, accusing Ankara with false reports of Syrians being forcefully deported, despite Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reiterating that Syrians would not be subjected to deportation.
"There are Syrians who come illegally. The ones who were not given residence permits, we take them to [refugee] camps. Syrians are under temporary protection status and no person under temporary protection will be deported," Soylu told local broadcaster NTV in an interview Wednesday.
Soylu emphasized that Turkey began its efforts to manage the movements of migrants and registration of Syrian refugees in an orderly fashion eight years ago, and succeeded with what the rest of the world has not.
"In 2019 so far, we have apprehended 163,000 illegal immigrants," he said, noting that 43,000 illegal immigrants have been deported this year.
However, he emphasized that these deported migrants are not Syrians who remain under temporary protection.
Despite the minister's remarks, however, several social media users began what appeared to be a disinformation campaign targeting Turkey, sharing falsified reports and blaming Ankara for allegedly deporting Syrian refugees back to Syria, including to war-torn Idlib.