Is Turkey sending back Syrian refugees?
Several media outlets alleged that Turkey has started to send Syrian refugees back to Syria, citing some Syrian individuals’ statements, Fact-Checking Turkey investigated the accuracy of this claim
Within the last few weeks, there are reports in international media about Turkey rounding up Syrian refugees and send them back to Syrian territory under the opposition control.
Some media outlets like Foreign Policy claimed that Turkey was “using Syrian refugees as a bargaining chip in its refugee deal with the European Union.” A local newspaper in Italy even claimed that Turkey was “stealing” money it had received from the EU for the Syrian refugees.
But, is this the case?
Even in the month of August when the Foreign Policy article alleged that refugees were killed by Turkish border guards while they were trying to cross Turkish border, more than 10,000 Syrian refugees have come to Turkey and were registered. 70,000 new Syrian refugees have come within this year.
Turkey hosts by far the highest number of refugees in the world. There are 3,649,750 registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. The real number is probably much higher with the unregistered refugees. Still, the official number of the Syrian refugees is higher than the populations of 20 countries in Europe. Turkey also hosts three times more Syrian refugees on its soil than the rest of the EU countries combined.
The EU was alarmed in 2015 when the refugee flow to the EU territory peaked that year with rising violence in the bloody civil war. The EU was eager to keep the refugees out of its territory. For this reason, the EU sought entering into an agreement which provisioned the readmission of the Syrian refugees who fled to the EU through Turkey. The EU-Turkey deal was signed in 2016 and Turkey accepted the readmission of Syrian refugees who went to Europe through its soil. In return, the EU pledged 3 billion$ to Turkey per year in order to spend for refugees. However, these promises were not kept so far. The EU released only 2.5 billion$ of the funds so far although they had to contribute 6 billion$.
On the contrary, Turkey already spent 37 billion$ for 3.6 million Syrian refugees since 2011. Once registered in Turkey, all Syrian refugees are entitled to free healthcare education and other public services. Some of these rights are not recognized in many countries even for their own citizens, for instance the United States. Actually, while the Turkish citizens have to pay social security contribution to benefit from the free healthcare system, the refugees do not have this requirement either.
In conclusion, Turkey is not deporting Syrian refugees. It endeavors to keep its commitment toward Syrian refugees who have come to Turkey, despite not receiving sufficient assistance and credit from the international community.