Jul 17 2018

Turkey's treatment of migrants a positive example for West - fmr U.S. ambassador

“(S)upposedly illiberal Turkey has set a powerful and positive example for upholding one of the most central of humanitarian values” by spending over $30 billion to shelter millions of Syrian refugees, former U.S. ambassador Matthey Bryza wrote in an op-ed published on Monday by the Euractiv news site.

The former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan recalled his positive impression of Turkey’s attitude to the Syrians in a refugee camp in the country’s south and in his city of residence, Istanbul, where he said he had observed a sense of obligation to help the “desperate people arriving on Turkey’s doorstep.”

Despite Western countries’ worries that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s newly implemented executive presidential system of government has ushered in authoritarianism, it is in their best interest to acknowledge the country’s effectiveness in dealing with the migrant crisis, said Bryza.

The European Union should therefore hand over the three billion euros promised to Turkey as part of its March 2016 migrant deal, which promised Turkey a total of six billion euros and visa-free travel as an incentive for taking back refugees who had made their way across the Aegean to Greek islands, said the former U.S. diplomat.

Turkey suspended its bilateral agreements with Greece on migrant readmission in June.

Turkey currently hosts over three million refugees from Syria, and has tightened restrictions along its southern border to stem the flow after allowing many in during the early years of the Syrian civil war.

The presence of the Syrian refugees has become a controversial topic in Turkey, where a recent poll by the Center for American Progress found that 78 percent of Turks believed their country spent too much money on the refugees.

Representatives of all the major political parties with the exception of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) promised voters they would begin returning the refugees to Syria in the months preceding the Jun. 24 elections, with Erdoğan saying in February he would do so once security was re-established in northern Syria.