While Syria enters its sixth year of war, the problem of refugees has long been set on the world’s agenda. As a matter of fact, using the word “problem” when speaking of this issue may not be entirely ethical since, as we all know, it is not an issue that can be considered something like an alcohol problem, a drug problem, a traffic problem or an internet addiction: It is a process that the people who go through it may have never imagined. It is a way of life that these people would never guessed they would go through, as people cannot foresee the fate awaiting them, just like millions of Syrians who went on with their lives at ease and peacefully with their families and had their own daily routines, ideals, goals, wishes and plans in the past were not aware of what they would encounter.
Undoubtedly, “refugee status” is a label that every person in the world has a risk to be called someday. It is a status that may not be too far away for those of us who live in an extremely risky and a strategic geography just beside the Middle East, in the very center of the Balkan-Caucasus-Middle East triangle.
Today, the world, in particular the EU countries, are going through a serious testing phase. This is a phase where countries’ conscientious, humane and judicial attributes are being tested.
Turkey is undoubtedly the leading country among those in the world that have managed to undergo this testing phase in the best way that it could do. As everyone knows, the country is now hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees without getting any support or aid from anywhere. Turkey established cities consisting of tents for refugees and later hosting areas with prefabricated container homes. These people are able to overcome issues on food, clothing, education and health thanks to the refugee identity cards provided to them. There are about 450 schools across the country where Syrian refugee children can receive education.
Turkey’s resolute stand in pursuing its welcoming attitude is worthy of respect. The fundamental motivations underlying such an attitude are magnanimity required by the moral values of Islam, the feelings of brotherhood stated in the Qur’an, the spirit of Ansar-Muhajirun [The Emigrants and the Helpers] in the life of our Prophet (pbuh), the moral responsibility which comes with being the descendants of the ancestors who served as leaders in these lands for centuries, and the good morality of Turkish people. In fact, a society with such characteristics is surely to stand out in comparison with the selfish, cruel and ruthless attitude of those societies which do not have these characteristics in regard to refugees.
Television screens are flooded with the photos of these poor people intercepted by tear gas or water cannons, battered, coshed and deprived of food and water, tripped up with barbed wire fences placed in front of them or left for dead on rickety boats on the high seas. What is painful is that people get used to seeing all of these scenes in such a way that the sincere reactions given in the first days as a result of the agitation of people are being superseded by the feelings of “indifference” and then “desperation.”
There is certainly some goods news and positive steps taken against all odds. In fact, the recent negotiations in the European Council for the resolution of the refugee crisis has been relatively gratifying. It is certain that, in comparison with what should be done, the EU has “gone nowhere fast” in regard to the problem of refugees; however, it has taken a turn for the better given the current conjuncture. Martin Selmayr, the chief of staff of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, made a statement on Twitter: “Good progress in difficult European Council talks on solving the refugee crisis.”
Turkey will be provided with €3 billion by 2018 for the accommodation of Syrian refugees under the agreement emerging from the negotiations; Turkey will readmit all of the refugees who settle in the Greek islands illegally , and all of those Syrian refugees will be returned to Turkey whereas the EU will take the same number of refugees from Turkey. The motivation behind such regulation is to obviate the irregular and illegal immigration to Europe.
Accordingly, all of the illegal migrants who travelled to the Greek islands through Turkey would likely start being returned to Turkey on April 4th; the EU is to admit one Syrian refugee from the camps in Turkey in return for every Syrian readmitted by Turkey. The goal of the EU is to cease the refugee flow to the Europe and to fight against human trafficking, which is the rationale for the agreement signed between Turkey and the EU. It is obvious that – from the perspective of the EU – a resolution to the crisis without Turkey does not seem possible. The agreement has been criticized by various people on national or international platforms, considered as inadequate or inaccurate.
However, when the agreement is executed, the refugees crossing into the Greek Islands will be returned to Turkey as of the night of March 20th to March 21st. Those who came to the Greek islands before midnight on March 20th will stay in the EU. In order to ensure that, hotspots on five islands will be established by Turkish and Greek authorities. The refugees to be registered in these hotspots will be readmitted to Turkey upon the completion of the procedures. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkey will send 72,000 refugees to the EU this year. However, the quota is not limited to that; after the admission of 72,000 refugees by the EU, the situation will be reassessed.
It is true that this agreement does not offer a radical solution; however, it is also pleasing to see that the West can take a step, albeit small. Perhaps it will serve as a step for new and permanent solutions wherea Turkey takes this step in order to prevent the loss of life including that of women, the elderly, the young, the children, and many innocent people on high seas.
On the other hand, it is of great importance to come up with new ideas to find more permanent solutions to the problem. In this regard, the participation of international organizations and NGOs is as essential as the steps to be taken jointly with the EU. However, the most important step is to stimulate the consciences of people and to spread love, tolerance, empathy, friendship, and brotherhood. It is entirely possible for all of us to strive for that as long as we are willing to do so.
Adnan Oktar's piece in EKurd Daily & MBC Times: