Claim: Turkey’s open door policy “illusion”

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Claim: Turkey’s open door policy “illusion”

2016-02-24 07:18 GMT
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Analysis on Al Jazeera website suggests Turkey does not have open door policy for Syrian refugees

A refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey

On 24 November 2015, an analysis titled Is Turkey’s ‘open door policy’ an illusion? was published on the Al Jazeera website. By giving voice to experts and witnesses, the article argued, as the title already suggests, that Turkey only pretended to implement the open door policy for refugees fleeing Syria.

A Syrian humanitarian worker and activist was quoted in the analysis as saying “When the Turkish government say that they have an open door policy, they are lying. This is definitely not true. Only doctors, some of the humanitarian workers - not all - and injured people can pass.” It is unclear if he was referring to a specific period in time since the official announcement of the open door policy or meant that Turkey never implemented such policy.

By February 2016, the total number of refugees around the world is estimated to reach 14 million. The current number of refugees Turkey is hosting has reached 2.6 million – which corresponds to more than half of the total number of refugees (4.7 million) given in the regional overview by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and to 18.5 percent of the total number of refugees in the world. Furthermore, the EU is yet to pay Turkey the €3 billion aid for refugees as the two sides previously agreed, while the total amount Turkey has spent on refugees currently nears $10 billion – an amount 20 times more than international aid agencies spent on refugees.

In a report published in 2014 by The Brookings Institution, it was said that “The intimate relationship between Turkey and Syria peaked when in 2009 the visa application is lifted bilaterally. . . . After a while, the [Turkish] government expressed unambiguously that its border gates are open for all Syrians fleeing the crisis and started the same practice also for refugees with no passport.” For more information on the refugee flow into Turkey, please click here.

“Although the official border gates are closed down at times because of security concerns that appear when the situation in Syria worsens, this policy is known as the ‘open door policy.’,” the report continued. In February 2016, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that Turkey started to welcome refugees in a controlled way. He added that the number of people waiting next to the border was around 50,000, 10,000 of which they let in, and that they expect the number to reach one million should Russian air strikes on opposition-held areas and attacks by the Syrian regime persist.

Another report published on October 2015 by the European Union Institute for Security Studies said “Turkey has been praised for keeping its border open for Syrian refugees” and “has also been lauded for its generous offer of temporary protection to Syrian refugees.” Refugee camps in Turkey and other efforts undertaken by that country attracted worldwide attention and were appreciated by many.1 An article published by The New York Times qualified a refugee camp in Turkey as “perfect.” The UN’s refugee chief said the West should “follow Turkey’s example in hosting Syrian refugees.”

Also, an expert quoted in the analysis says “[The] Turkish government never says this openly, but their end goal is to create this safety zone and even send some of the Syrians currently residing in Turkey to there, too.” As a matter of fact, Turkey did say this openly. “We have always defended safe zones and no-fly zones. People who have been displaced can be placed in those safe areas,” said the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus added that Turkey aims primarily to welcome Syrian refugees outside Turkey.