Turkey insists on safe zone for displaced civilians in Syria

Turkey encourages safe zone for displaced civilians to keep them north of Syria, says head of Turkey's disaster management agency (AFAD)

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Turkish soldiers stand guard as Syrians wait behind the border fences near the Turkish town of Suruc on September 18, 2014.

Turkey is continuing to support safe zones for the increasing number of displaced civilians fleeing war however, it’s urging them to stay in northern Syria, the director of the Turkish disaster management agency (AFAD), Fuat Oktay said.

Oktay told Reuters on Friday that Turkey will keep their aid camps and will not shut its borders to war-fleeing refuges.

Although Turkey has the best-equipped facilities in their refugee camps, close to the Syrian border, there is limited space, with just enough capacity to hold 330,000 people in total.

The European Union is putting pressure on Turkey to prevent refugees from leaving Turkey or using Turkey as a passage to enter European countries. By doing so, Turkey will assist Europe to stem the biggest migration crisis that it has faced since World War Two. In exchange the EU is offering financial support and expedited membership - which have been continuing for 52 years - into the EU.

Since the war in Syria has started Turkey has hosted over two million Syrian refugees, more than any other country thus far, according to United Nation registration records.

"An open-border policy is the main policy we have been following since the beginning of this crisis ... but the entire world including Europe has to open its doors for the refugees, it's not just for Turkey," Fuat Oktay said.

The agency is also supporting camps for displaced civilians in northern Syria.

"Any individual would like to stay in his or her country... [We] promote them to stay in their own country," Oktay said and added that "AFAD has supplied aid in Syria since the crisis broken out."

Syrian refugees cross the border. Photograph: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey has been throwing the idea of a “safe zone” in northern Syria to protect displaced civilians for a period of time now, however the idea is gaining little global support. 

In the meantime, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece decided to work together over immigration within the context of project which is "Regional Cooperation Border and Management among Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria Project" being held by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Emrah Guler, an IOM project officer in Turkey, told Anadolu Agency that "information exchange is very important between the neighbouring countries on irregular immigration. If the three countries work without knowledge of each other, it effects both illegal migrants and refugees."

The war in Syria has to date claimed the lives of an estimated 250,000 people, most of whom were killed by regime air strikes and indiscriminate barrel bombings from helicopters on civilian areas.

Approximately half the country’s population has been displaced, with around 6.7 million seeking refuge elsewhere in Syria and 5 million moving into neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan.

This year around half a million refugees, mostly Syrians, have entered Europe, hoping to gain asylum in economically well-off EU countries.

However, at least 2,636 people have died as they attempt to enter Europe in 2015 according to UNCHR figures.

TRTWorld and agencies