Nurettin Taşar: The European Unıon’s perspectıve on Turkey’s Refugee Polıcy

Posted: 2017-05-19
Written by: EU Network
Category: Europe
Tagged: turkey tunisia syria crisis syria eu buazizi



“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy
in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Universal Declaration of Human Right Article 14


 “Arab Spring” started on 18th December 2010 in Tunisia and affected most of the Middle East States. Firstly unemployed Muhammed Buazizi who finished university in Tunisia and he protested against Tunisian government corruption with self-immolation. Most of the Middle East States were influenced by Buazizi’s actions. When “Arab Spring” started in Syria which lead to a civil war. It is important that Syria crisis has influenced that territory. Syria Crisis is the biggest problem in the world Agenda which basically is focused on great powers war in Syria. In addition Syria Crisis had a great impact on the rise of the refugee crisis in that area. Considering the fact that the most of Syrian territory has been destroyed and half of the Syrian people have left the country. Some of Syrians who had valid passports have chosen to go to Turkey as a seek asylum.


Until 2015 Turkey accepted only Syrians in possession of the passport, but considering the scale of the conflict that was taking place in Syria, Turkish government decided to allow into the country all the refugees regardless the fact whether they were in possession of a passport or not. Turkish Government reserved a special budget for refugees, which consists of 20 billion Euros at the time. However, Europen Countries haven’t understood that Turkey has a great deal of refugee trouble.

In the first part of my article I am going to introduce refugee term and Turkey’s refugee term. In the second part I will talk about Turkish-Syrian Refugee Policy and Turkey’s Refugee policy which was done till now. In conclusion I will tackle the European media’s perspective on how Turkey is handling the refugee issue.




When civil wars, conflicts or crisises take place in a country, people become refugees or asylum-seekers. They are obliged to leave the place where they live. Particularly unsteady countries have more possibility to face humanitarian crisis. Therefore The United Nations General Assembly found a solution for refugees.

The United Nations General Assembly establish the Office of United Nations High Commissioner which protects Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR works to protect and find solutions for refugees. It is based on a structure of international law that includes 1948. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the four Geneva Conventions (1949) on international humanitarian law. The Refugee Convention describes the term “refugee” and sets minimum standards for the treatment of people who are found to modify for refugee status. (Statu of Refugees, 1951.)

According to the 1951 Convention depends on Status of Refugees, a refugee is someone who:

Has a based on good evidence or reasons fear of persecution because of his/her
- Race,
- Nationality,
- Religion,
- Membership in a particular social group,
- Political opinion;



Refugees from Syria, who have been treated as approximately three million by the Government of Turkey since March 2011, benefit from a group-based “temporary protection” regime, which was formalized by the Temporary Protection Regulation. However Turkey service all of Syrian Refugee whether has a passport or not  

2.2. What did Turkey Service to Syrian Refugee

There are currently three million refugees in Turkey border with Syria. Turkey spends 3 euro per day per a person and the total cost is 20 billion Euros till now. European Union has only spent a one hundred and six million Euro for Syrian Refugee Crisis until this time.(Ahaber, 2016).

According to the Global Human Aid database Turkey is ranked as the third country regarding Human Aid in the World. In addition It is ranked as the first country regarding the help given to Syrian Refugee in the World. Turkey not only gives humanitarian aid to Syrian Refugee but also gave humanitarian aid to other Middle East States and the Africa States based on The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency. Turkey spent 6.4 billion dollars on humanitarian aid in 2014. Forty-six percent of the money was spent for Syria Refugee Crisis. What is left from the money was spent for other Middle Eastern States and Africa States. (GHA, 2015).


In addition, besides the Syrian refugees, Turkey accepted five hundred thousand refugees as a result of the Gulf war. Also Bulgarian government used so-called ‘’bulgarianisation policy’’ against people of Turkish origin in 1989-90. Turkey accepted them as a Refugee.  (GHA, 2015).

Many people from Balkans, Caucasia, Central Asia, Middle East, and North Africa come as refugees. Turkey is intensely a transit country, but there are some cases where the refugees want to settle down in Turkey.

If we go back to the Syria refugee issue and compare countries who accepted refugees, Turkey is in better position than others, taking into account the standard of life and so on. Based on international experts, refugee camps and refugee standard of life in Turkey was defined as in a five-star hotel. Most of camps include school, hospital, sports hall, mosque, laundry and even hairdresser. (GHA, 2015).

In the hospitals of the refugee camps in Turkey seven hundred twenty thousand refugees were treated due to injuries or illness. Schools were established for approximately thirteen thousand children. Turkey used to lead food distribution system until 15th October 2012 for the Syrian Refugee. Then Turkey changed the system. It has moved into Eat Card System which includes approximately twenty-six Euro per a month which is enough to survive insıde the camp. For instance one of Refugees can eat three meal a day and only pay one Euro. Also they have the possibility to prepare their own food because there are kitchens in every camp. (Güçer, Karaca ve Dinçer, 2013).

One of Association created hygienic electronic card for Syrian Refugees. They can buy hygiene products in Super Market for free. (Hayata Destek İnsani Yardım Derneği, 2013).

Turkey not only gives humanitarian aid for Syrian Refugee in Turkey on the borders but also it gives humanitarian aid to Syrian Refugee in Jodan, Lebanon etc. For instance Turkey sent mobile hospitals to Jordan and Lebanon to treat Syrian refugees and now there are being treated a hundred people per day. (Atalay, Kavakdan ve Sönmez, 2013).

Besides opening the doors to people, Turkey spent 20 billion € for their welfare, which is the biggest amount of money spent on Syrian refugee crisis, while all other countries together spent only four hundred sixty-two million. We can clearly see how much humunitarian aid Turkey offered for Syrian refugees. In addition, developed countries accepted one hundred and thirty thousand Syrian people as refugees, while Turkey accepted approximately three million people as a refugee. (“Zenginlere mülteci eleştirisi”, 2016).




Even though Turkey has success on Syrian refugee policy, European media pretends not to see that. In the context Ergül Köksoy who is a professor in Turkey and specialist regarding Syria Refugees Crisis researched European countries newspapers headlines regarding Syria Refugee and Turkey like “The Guardian”, from England “Le Monde”, from France, “Der Spiegel”, from Germany, from the first of January till the 30th of March 2016. Köksoy points that he tried to understand European perspective regarding Syrian refugee crisis and Turkey based on the three newspaper headline According to Database. Three of European Newspaper’s headline ignored the help that three million Syrian refugees were receiving from Turkey. Based on his data three biggest newspapers in Europe referred to Syria refugee crisis in Turkey just as  “Refugee Crisis in Turkey” Also Turkey used the crisis as  political issues. (Köksal, Ergül, 2015, s. 93-94).


Graph 1: Regarding  Syrian Refugee Crisis in Turkey News Distribution in Three of Newspaper in European Countries

COUNTRIES                   Refugee Crisis in  the         Illegal migration     Humanitarian      
                                Context of Turkey’s Relations  News Regarding       Aid Regarding
                                    with European Union News         Turkey                      Turkey

ENGLAND   THE GUARDIAN   31                                       16                              2

FRANCE       LE MONDE           41                                       24                              1

GERMANY  DER SPIEGEL      48                                      15                               -

Three newspapers associated Syrian refugee crisis with Turkey but namely their countries refused to host/help three million refugees by Turkey. On the other side they indicated that Turkey lacks public diplomacy regarding that crisis. In my opinion we deduced that three of European Newspapers are biased and partial against Turkey and Turkey is not efficient on public diplomacy. When we check newspapers in European countries regarding Turkey they all refer to or associated it with war, terrorism, lack of freedom of speech etc. Syria refugee crisis could be public diplomacy for Turkey. Even though Turkey playing a key role in Syrian refugee crisis. Some European newspapers ignored the fact that we understood that Turkey hasn’t succeeded to use public diplomacy in this case. (Köksal, Ergül, 2015, s. 94)
For instance Canada established children’s choir to welcome. Syrian Refugee who went to Canada. Besides children’s chanted “Taleal” Bedru Aleyna” which is the oldest chant in the Islam. The chant is published on Youtube and was watched many times. In addition Canada’s prime ministers Justin Trudau met with Syrian refugee in the Canada airport. He said that we love to host refugees and wished them a warm welcome. However, Canada only admitted three hundred people from Syria as a refugee.(Girit, 2015)

Similarly Finland Prime Minister Juna Sipila donated his home to host Syrian people as a refugee. This action has been so popular in the World Media. Finland hosted least people from Syria as refugees in the European Union Countries. (Habertürk, 2015)

According to an international observer on refugee issues, Turkey built refugee camps which looked like five star hotels. However, some of European news outlets published news with headlines such as “Migrant flows in the Mediterranean”, “Turkey as a transit route to Europe” and unfortunately they don’t indicate Turkey’s progress on the Syrian refugee crisis issue.

Turkey as well hasn’t been successful in the matter of public diplomacy, where nations develop mutual trust and effective relationships and have become soft power in global environment. But European news outlet apparently didn’t see Turkey success in the matter of Syrian refugees. My purpose regarding Syrian refugee crisis is to represent Turkey’s perspective on one side and the European perspective on the other with a special focus on media coverage. Turkey tries to use the refugee crisis as a political mean, in order to pressure the European Union to apply an open border policy towards refugees, because as we know, Turkey is holding the burden of this issue, and is the most affected country.In my opinion, it is only humunitarian crisis, not political one.

Nurettin Taşar is a master student studying Middle Eastern Studies at the Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University in Turkey



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