A Syrian refugee hands a baby over the broken border fence into Turkey. AP photo
ISTANBUL, TURKEY— For nearly 4 million refugees in Turkey who fled the war zones in neighboring Syria, the future seems more uncertain now than when they arrived after the 2011 uprising as Ankara is likely to revoke a critical deal with the European Union on short-term migration policies.
The Turkish President Receb Tayyip Erdogan has said he might reconsider the so-called Facility for Refugees in Turkey Agreement, according to which Ankara would readmit nearly 1 million refugees who left Turkey for Europe in search of asylum over the past few years.
In return Ankara would be receiving €20 billion in the coming three years and resume EU membership talks that stalled in late 2000.
The recent row between Ankara and the EU erupted after several European countries rejected permission for Turkish government officials to campaign in their countries for the upcoming Turkish referendum.
Turkish government has hinted that it might open its borders as the winter season comes to a close and new round of migrations from troubled Middle Eastern countries are likely to set off towards Europe.
Ankara had earlier said it would grant citizenship to nearly 2,7 million refugees who had been in Turkey for at least 5 years, which is a precondition to seek Turkish citizenship. Official data also show that nearly 152,000 children have been born in Turkey whose parents came as refugees from Syria.
Turkey has said by offering the refugees citizenship, they would have brighter prospects in the labor market and reduce the overall migration to Europe.
That offer seems to be no longer available as Ankara threatens to open its borders toward Europe and refrain from offering citizenship to the existing refugees in the country.
“We don’t want to leave for Europe. We want to stay here, we see Turkey as our own homeland,” said a woman who has lived in a tent with her family ever since they fled to Turkey in 2012.
The government’s earlier plan to permanently resettle Syrian refugees in the Kurdish southeast of the country after granting them full citizenship has been slammed by local Kurdish officials who fear the move could disturb ethnic demography of the region.
Rights group have in the past attacked the EU-Turkey deal and said migration is a human right that should be protected by European institutions.