What if Turkey were not around? What if approximately three million refugees faced razor wire barriers and giant walls on the border of another country and were left in the firing line under great danger?
What if there were furious uniformed soldiers pointing their rifles at the Syrian Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Yezidis instead of the Turkish soldiers who embrace them all and carry their babies and the elderly on their backs?
If there were not a country like Turkey neighboring Syria, then there would be millions of refugees left to a certain death, which would become the symbol of a horrific worldwide remorselessness. That shame of humanity would no longer be kept hidden and the violation of good conscience experienced by many countries would be documented.
This grave picture has not appeared because by the time this Syrian tragedy began Turkey has humbly let in approximately three million people into its borders. In this sense, we need to give the countries such as Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan their due: Yet if Turkey were not there, it is a fact that these countries, with inadequate financial resources and geographic limitations, would face more serious difficulties. Apparently, if Europe had to admit such a vast crowd of Syrians who had to leave their country, the current haughty noises we hear from Europe would be even uglier and humanity would lose even more through bloodshed.
Surely not all the European nations and authorities are of the same mind and the number of those who embrace refugees with all their might is not insignificant. Yet how bitter it is that countries that prioritize their interests and set their policies base on crude political interests. These political calculations silence the scrupulous voices.
Last week, a EU-Turkey deal to tackle the refugee crisis has formally come into effect. Under the deal, those refugees who illegally enter the EU from Greece will be sent back to Turkey and for every Syrian sent back, one Syrian currently in Turkish refugee camps will be resettled in the EU. The most problematic aspect of the deal is probably for non-Syrians, who are entirely prohibited from entering the EU. Given that only 40 percent of those arriving in the EU countries are Syrians, the exclusion of Iraqi and Afghan refugees constitutes a serious crisis that is barely spoken of.
The UN and human rights organizations object to the details of the deal. According to the EU’s “Procedures and Regulations on Refugees”, every asylum request must be individually examined and settled by the court, and until the verdict of the court, that asylum seeker must not be deported; the deportation of foreigners en masse is also prohibited by this. There is surely a humanitarian dimension to the issue. The reluctance of European countries towards refugees, their considering only “some Syrians” within this context and returning those who had to migrate from other countries presents a disturbing picture. Some comparisons are at work: The EU has a population of over 500 million and its gross domestic product per capita is around $27,000 dollars. Turkey, with its 75 million population, has a gross domestic product of $9,000. If we assume that one million refugees applied to the EU, this figure corresponds to less than 0.2 percent of the EU’s total population. The numbers of refugees the EU governments have admitted since January 2016 has not even reached 800. Turkey, with a population of around one-seventh of the EU, currently officially hosts 2.7 million Syrian refugees.
Could Turkey strike a more humanitarian deal? Probably. Yet, when the reluctance of the EU about refugees is taken into consideration, the agreed upon deal has a bit of significance in making the EU enter into the equation even if this may be largely in the financial sense. With the deal that has been agreed to, Europe has clear documented that it does not want refugees to be a part of it. Distancing itself from the problem and pretending as if it has never existed has always been an indispensable fact of Europe’s realpolitik. What Europe has to essentially be made aware of is that the world is no longer the world it once was; the problems not only concern the Islamic world or just the Middle East but also the entire world. It is inevitable that problems will multiply exponentially if countries continue to protect their borders and nation states instead of protecting “human beings.”
What needs to be discussed at this point is what Turkey, who has essentially assumed the entire responsibility regarding the refugee issue, needs to do. Some regulations in practice in Turkey that put refugees in difficulty must be urgently amended. Due to an annotation added to the Refugee Agreement of 1951, these people are accepted as “asylum-seekers” rather than “refugees” and thus, they are deprived of some essential rights such as working, citizenship or a university education. In order for Turkey to be considered as a “safe third country”, a regulation that will grant these rights must be urgently passed into law.
In recent years, the Turkish government has made such regulations, especially for the Syrian refugees yet more inclusive initiations are necessary. Now, it rests with Turkey to show the entire world that the refugee issue, which is perceived of a “problem” throughout the world, is actually a “positive asset.” Once we accomplish making the “refugees” one of our own through social adaptation policies, once we benefit from their social wealth, once we start seeing the humanitarian benefits they will bring, rather than simply considering them as a burden, we will then be able to host our guests in truly proper fashion, as is their due. The world may be pursuing realpolitik; we need, however, to strive for humaneness. At the end of the day, those who win will be the scrupulous ones.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Arab News: