Opening the Floodgates? – Turkey Will No Longer Stop Syrian Refugees Reaching Europe

Written by | Friday, February 28th, 2020

Turkey will no longer stop refugees from reaching Europe, Ankara has warned, which is in response to the killing of 33 Turkish soldiers on Friday (28 February) in an air strike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwestern Idlib region. President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an chaired an emergency cabinet meeting that discussed the attack in Ankara overnight, while Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Turkish force commanders directed operations in Syria at the Turkish border, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported. Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Syria in response to the significant advances by Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian military, on Sunday (16 February).
President Erdo?an has warned that Turkey would launch a full-scale offensive to repel Syrian forces unless they pulled back from Turkish observation posts in the region. He has also been in talks with his US counterpart, President Donald Trump, about Turkey’s plans to establish a “safe zone” east of the Euphrates River in Syria, but the White House said US forces would not be involved. About one million civilians have been displaced near the Turkish border in the wake of the Russian-backed Syrian government offensive since December last year, marking the worst humanitarian crisis in the nine-year war.
Meanwhile, in anticipation of the imminent arrival of refugees from Idlib, Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials have been ordered “not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said a Turkish official, who requested anonymity. “All refugees, including Syrians, are now welcome to cross into the European Union.” Turkey, which currently hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, has reiterated it cannot handle more. Under the 2016 deal, the EU has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara agreeing to stem the influx of refugees into Europe. If the threat to open the ‘floodgates’ for refugees to head toward European borders is carried out, it would reverse Turkey’s pledge to the EU in 2016 and could quickly draw Western powers into the standoff over Idlib and stalled negotiations between Ankara and Moscow.

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