More than eight years after war drove millions of Syrians out of their country, a cascade of geopolitical events has hit refugees in Turkey especially hard.
Sent back to Turkey from European countries under a previous agreement with the European Union, predominantly Muslim refugees and others who have drifted to Istanbul in search of a living are now being forcibly sent back to the towns and cities of their initial arrival, the leader of a native ministry in southern Turkey said.
“We just received 20,000 refugees who have to go back to the towns where they were first registered,” he said. “And there is an economic crisis in Turkey.”
The complications of the refugee crisis in Turkey
More foreigners flooding into job-scarce towns in Turkey further agitate Turks who have already derided, and in some cases attacked, Syrian refugees as Arabic-speaking trouble-makers. Unwelcome in Turkey, Syrian refugees from terrorist-infested Idlib, Syria face the threat of officials sending them back if they are suspected of association with Islamist extremist militants and rebel fighters there.
Unhygienic conditions lead to an inordinately high level of people with serious illness and disease, including children with leukemia and the elderly with kidney problems.
“Unofficially, some refugees are being sent back to Syria, to Idlib,” the ministry leader said. “Many refugees feel as though Turkey has betrayed them.”
The Turkish government has closed the border with Syria, where more than 1 million displaced people from Idlib are trying to get in, he said. One of the last rebel strongholds in the armed rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that grew out of unrest in 2011, Idlib is the site of intense fighting between Syrian government forces and about 70,000 rebel and jihadist militants.
Enemies among them
In northwest Syria about 40 miles southwest of Aleppo, Idlib is crumbling under fighting between government forces, backed by Russia and Iran, and the rebel and jihadist factions. Last year the United Nations warned that further government offensives among the town’s then-100,000 rebels and 3 million civilians would result in massacres that would send a new wave of refugees to the border.
A series of talks between Turkey, Iran and Russia in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, have aimed to stop intense fighting in Idlib and end the war in Syria. A unilateral cease-fire in Idlib announced by Syrian forces on Aug. 1 drew approval from most rebel groups but later fell apart when one insurgent faction refused to leave as required by the cease-fire truce and a prior agreement. Military offensives began anew.
Under terms of Astana agreements, Turkey has taken a tougher stance on Syrians suspected of ties with terrorists in Idlib, and this has added to refugees’ sense that the Turkish government is turning against them, the ministry leader said.
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, R.B. Klama