Sep 10 2018

Turkey to close doors policy to refugees from Idlib, member of parliament says

Turkey will not accept new refugees flooding over its border after a likely Syrian government offensive against the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, the chairman of the Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission said.

Syrian government troops, backed by Russia and Iran, have for weeks been massing near Idlib, the last major rebel-held area in Syria. Turkey, which has troops in Idlib as part of a monitoring force, fears many thousands of civilians and rebel fighters there may flee the area and head to Turkey.

With some 3.5 million refugees already living in Turkey, Foreign Affairs Commission Chairman Volkan Bozkır said the country did not have the capacity to accommodate any more.

"If a negative scenario happens in Idlib, we are planning not to open our doors or build new camps in Syrian territory for new refugees,” the Akşam newspaper quoted him as saying.

He said that during previous influxes of refugees, what he called terrorist groups had also infiltrated into Turkey. “This time, we will not take this risk," he said.

Since Turkey moved to an executive presidential system of government following June elections, decision-making is concentrated in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has not announced a policy of blocking refugees from Idlib coming to Turkey.

But coming from a former minister and Erdoğan loyalist, Bozkır’s thinking, however, may reflect that of the government.

The Turkish military moved into Idlib in October 2017 to monitor a ceasefire between the Syrian government and the groups in Idlib, but fighting between the two sides has increased since then.

Russia has asked Turkey to remove jihadist forces in Idlib, but fighters formerly affiliated to al Qaeda are mixed in with Islamist rebels backed by Turkey.