UNHCR grateful for Turkey’s partnership in migration crisis
President Tayyip Erdoğan meets with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Ankara, Turkey, Sept. 8, 2021. (Presidential Press Office Handout via Reuters)

UNHCR grateful for Turkey’s partnership in migration crisis

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) thanked Turkey for the country’s strong support in hosting migrants and refugees.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi arrived in Turkey for a working visit on Sept. 7 and was received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday.

Grandi said on Twitter that he held discussions with Erdoğan on solutions “for Syrian refugees in Turkey and in the region, and on the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.”

“The UNHCR is grateful for its strong partnership with Turkey in both endeavors,” he added.

Separately, Grandi also met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in the capital Ankara.

Thanking Çavuşoğlu “for a good discussion on issues of forced displacement in Turkey and the region,” Grandi said on social media that “with Syria’s refugee crisis in its 11th year and Afghanistan’s humanitarian situation deteriorating, we must strengthen responses and accelerate the search for solutions.”

For his part, Çavuşoğlu after the meeting on Twitter said: “Migration is a common issue in all countries. Fair burden and responsibility sharing is a must.”

Earlier Wednesday, Grandi also met with Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Grandi is also expected to visit Şanlıurfa and Gaziantep provinces, which host Syrian refugees in refugee camps.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum-seekers who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million remain displaced, according to United Nations estimates.

After the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, Turkey adopted an “open-door policy” for people fleeing the conflict, granting them “temporary protection” status.

In addition to 33,000 university students, more than half a million Syrian children are enrolled in schools across Turkey, according to UNICEF. They are learning the Turkish language, as well as other disciplines.

Turkey has made large investments in social cohesion policies to enable Syrians to integrate into Turkish society smoothly.

Ankara so far has spent around $40 billion (TL 274 billion) on the Syrians in Turkey, while the European Union has only provided Turkey around 3 billion euros ($3.34 billion) from a promised 6 billion euros for the refugees – a gap Turkey has long demanded be rectified.

According to United Nations figures, close to 1.4 million refugees in Turkey are under 15 years of age and over 800,000 are aged 15-24.

Turkey is not only helping Syrian refugees within its borders but also those in the safe zones it established in Syria’s north after clearing the regions of terrorism through Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018 and Operation Peace Spring in 2019.

Since its operations, Turkey has supported every aspect of life across the region, ranging from health to education, security and agriculture. Efforts to clear bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were launched and administrative duties were designated to local councils.

The country also rolled up its sleeves to reconstruct hospitals, schools, mosques and roads destroyed by the terrorist groups. Within the scope of ameliorating the region’s social infrastructure, people were given food and clothing by several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), while roads and buildings were rebuilt. These efforts paid off as hundreds of displaced Syrians started to return to the liberated areas.

This article originally appeared in DAILY SABAH on 09 Sep 2021.