The humanitarian story in Turkey has seen a sudden turnaround with thousands of Syrian refugees been sent back to Syria, a place which still does not have a peaceful atmosphere for a civilian to live in.
Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for eight years, Syrians had found a safe haven in the lands of Turkey. Recently, and out of desperation to save themselves against the airstrikes at the border, many desperate Syrian civilians had barged the gates open that creates a thin divide between Syria and Turkey.
Syrian Displacement From Turkey
But now, the country is swelling at the seams with refugees and the exodus does not seem to have a near end. It is only now, that Erdogan has declared in an open statement, that Turkey will not be homing the Syrian influx as it does not feel it right to take on all the financial burden, without any help from any other countries.
Ankara has decided either to send Syrians back to where they belong or redirect them to various other European countries. The movement has already started. In the last few weeks, Turkish and international refugee officials have reported an increase in migrants and refugees trying to cross by boat into Europe from Turkey, many of them Syrians leaving Istanbul since the police crackdown. Over 500 refugees arrived by boat in the Greek island of Lesbos a week ago.
Erdogan does have the personal agenda of establishing a safe zone along the Turkish border with Syria. This is an area rich with oil and gas reserves that stretches to a 20km length. That plan has reached an impasse. Most of this area right now is occupied by American and Kurdish forces.
Since then, Ankara has increased its pressure on EU participating nations for refugee funding and maintenance.
What is the Problem with EU Funds?
The EU members and Turkey finally reached an agreement on March 2016 under which they would take ‘tougher measures against human smugglers and stop illegal migration through the Aegean Sea’. At this point, Brussels had also pledged to contribute €6 billion (approximately $6.6 billion) to help Turkey cope with then 3million (now 3.6 million) refugees in the country. But nothing concrete happened till, at the beginning of 2019, Erdogan has said to have slammed the EU for failing to comply with the agreement.
He spilled the beans on how Ankara had spent $35 billion on hosting some four million refugees. As of June 2019, the European Commission has dispersed assistance measures of €2.2 billion ($2.45 billion) to ensure EU support for refugees and host communities in Turkey. This is reported as per figures from Ankara. According to the United Nations, there is a problem of where and how the money is being utilized. While the EU representatives say they have disbursed half the amount of aid, Turkey has not come back with the same figure. The problem lies in how financial assistance from the EU fund reaches Turkey through projects and not delivered directly to the government’s coffers. This is done to help curb any chances of money laundering. Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world.