The movement of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe may continue if the situation in Syria’s Idlib province deteriorates, Turkey warned on Friday.
“The latest developments in Idlib, which displaced hundreds of thousands of people and has further put pressure on the already existing migrant pressure on our country,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement, adding that the developments have also significantly affected the migrants and refugees in Turkey.
"The risk will continue to rise if the situation gets worse," it said.
The ministry also stressed that Turkey has not changed its policy on the humane treatment of migrants, as it remains the country hosting the largest number of migrants in the world.
"There is no change of Turkey's migration policy, as the country hosting the largest number of migrants in the world," Aksoy said.
Saying that Europe broke its promise to help migrants in Turkey, as well as to help Turkey, stemming further migrant waves, Turkish officials announced earlier that they would no longer try to stop irregular migrants from reaching Europe. Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down following the attack that killed 33 soldiers in Idlib, where nearly 4 million people live in dire humanitarian conditions.
Turkey has been telling European and other countries that it will not be able to handle another wave of migrants as it already hosts over 3.7 million, and officials have been criticizing them for remaining indifferent to the calls and the dire humanitarian situation in northwestern Syria.
The ministry statement comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Idlib, northwestern Syria that the International Committee of the Red Cross has called "deeply alarming," as attacks by the Assad regime and its allies have devastated local civilians.
Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday that it had not been informed of any change in Turkey's policy regarding Syrian refugees, nor did it have reports of people on the move toward Greece or other parts of Europe.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Babar Baloch, when asked about a Reuters report quoting a senior Turkish official saying that Ankara would no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, told a Geneva news briefing: "We have not received any communication to that effect. We have no reports of a visible shift of movement to the borders."
Some 6,000 refugees, or 100 people a day, had reached Greece from Turkey in the first two months of the year, mainly through sea crossings, Baloch told Reuters.
In another statement, the European Commission said Friday that Turkey has not officially announced a change to its policy on refugees in its country, adding that it expected Ankara to uphold commitments it made on controlling flows of migrants to the EU.
Turkey has committed to end irregular migration flows from Turkey to the EU and ensure improved reception conditions for refugees in Turkey, in exchange for support from the bloc.
"I would like to stress that there was no official announcement from the Turkish side about any changes in their asylum seeker, refugee or migrant policy," a spokesman for the EU's executive told a news briefing.
"So from our point of view, the EU-Turkey statement ... still stands and we expect Turkey to uphold its commitments stemming from this statement. The Turkish authorities officially confirmed there is no change in the official policy ... We expect that it will continue to stay so."
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