Dhe benefit of Turkey as a bridge between Asia and Europe does not lie solely in its geostrategic importance, which politicians boast about all the time. We are transit route for everything. We have always been a transit country for drugs and irregular migration. Even before the start of the civil war in Syria, thousands of illegal migrants came into the country from Afghanistan and Iran. Very few of them wanted to stay in Turkey, the vast majority went to Europe.
To the Turkish version of the column
Yazının Türkçe orijinalini okumak için tıklayın
When war broke out in Syria in 2011, war refugees moved to Turkey because it offered one of the closest gateways. Now it has cost Ankara dearly for having fomented the war in the neighboring country, which has the longest common border at 911 kilometers. The Erdogan government initially said that the critical threshold was 100,000 refugees, making it clear when it would step on the brakes. But as the fire in Syria spread, hundreds of thousands became millions. Her goal was to travel to Europe. When Europe recognized this, Ankara lured it with the formula: “We’ll pay whatever it costs, but they stay with you.” That was comfortable for Erdogan: He received funding from the West and always had a trump card against Europe .
According to official figures, around four million Syrians live in Turkey today. If we add irregular Syrians and Afghans who have fled to Turkey since the Taliban took power, the number rises to ten million. The influx of ten million people in ten years into a country of 82 million people, partly due to the lack of a sensible integration policy, has led to serious problems, but not in terms of crime. Apart from tensions in the ghettos, where the majority of migrants live, there were no major incidents. However, since the economic problems have intensified in recent years, the view of local society on immigrants has developed negatively. Although most programs for migrants are funded by Europe, Turkish citizens have protested against any government support. The smaller the cake got, the more the immigrants came into focus. If the grumbling of the population increases, the government puts a few hundred refugees on buses and sends them back to their country. A few delinquents were also expelled. But these measures are not enough to calm the protests.
Complaints about irregular migrants are now having an impact on the political balance of power in Turkey. The immigrants who have poured into the country as a result of Erdogan’s foreign policy are seen as the second biggest problem after the economy. Given the reaction from the electorate, the opposition pledged to “voluntarily” return the migrants to their countries of origin if they took over the government. Erdogan countered: “We will not send the refugees back.” When polls showed that he would be punished politically for this attitude, he changed his mind. Since 82 percent of those surveyed said: “Migrants should go back to their countries,” Erdogan felt compelled to give in: “We will do our best to get our Syrian siblings to return.”
Citizens opposed to migrants and parts of the opposition also fear that Erdogan could use refugees as a vote repository. According to the statistics, this concern is unfounded. Out of four million officially registered Syrians, only 200,000 were naturalized. That’s not a number that could make a difference in a country of 64 million voters.
#Letter #Istanbul #Erdogan #refugees