Migration and the Refugee Crisis… People who had to leavetheir home country for various reasons struggle to survive by immigrating to countries with better conditions. Actually, this sentence shouldn’t sound too foreign. Refugee migration, which has become a crisis for the whole world in recent years, still continues to be an insurmountable problem. Thousands of immigrants take refuge in better countries with better conditions, especially in Turkey and Greece. As for the causes of the arrival of refugees in general, we can say that Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi refugees want to seek asylum in a different country because of the war, Iranian refugees due to the strict lifestyle brought by the regime, and refugees from African countries due to bad living conditions.
There are 2.75 million Syrians registered in Turkey. This equals 3.5 percent of the total population of the nation. When the refugee invasion began in 2011, Ankara (Turkey’s capital that hosts the Turkish parliament) expected fewer arrivals and a lower number of arrivals. Nonetheless, this process, which began in 2011, turned into a refugee crisis in 2015. As numerous refugees and asylum seekers attempted to enter Europe via the Mediterranean and the Balkans in order to take refuge in European Union nations, the situation got out of control.
Mehdi Reza Ghorbani is one of the refugees who came to Turkey from Iran in 2015 when he was 23 years old. He sought asylum at the beginning of the refugee flow…
“I would love to finish a university in Iran. But I couldn’t. I was a soldier before I came to Turkey. It was the 11th month of my 12-month military service and they deliberately caused a big problem in my military service. After this problem, I had to leave the country. I came to Turkey illegally. I was planning to go to Europe from Turkey. But on the way, I almost saw death. I made a deal with a smuggler in Iran to come to Turkey. He told us we would walk for an hour and go with the bus rest of the road. But after we set out, we learned that it was all a lie. We came on foot from the mountains without food and water for 16 hours. There were even those who abandoned their own babies. A mother would leave her child on the road because she could no longer carry it. I took the child in my arms and brought her with me until Turkey…”.
-Mehdi Reza Ghorbani
The European Union proposed an agreement with Turkey to restrict asylum seekers from accessing Europe. At summits on November 15, 2015, and November 29, 2015, authorities voiced their support for Turkey, which takes migrants fleeing Syria’s civil war. The migrant agreement between Turkey and the EU entered into force on 18 March 2016 after the Turkey-EU summit. The agreement is known as the “18 March Agreement” or “The Immigrant Agreement” by the public. Briefly, according to this agreement, Turkey would register all immigrants seeking asylum in European Union countries and prevent irregular migration. As a consequence, incoming migrants would be permitted to stay in Turkey for a set length of time before requesting asylum from the European Union and gaining the right to migrate to European Union nations as a result of interviews scheduled for the following years. In exchange, the European Union would pay Turkey 3+3 billion euros. Although the European Union assumed it had found a temporary solution to the refugee issue with this agreement, the solution was not enough for the migrants who crossed illegally to Europe through the coasts of Turkey or Africa.
‘’ I made a deal with another smuggler. He would take us by boat to Greece. We were 56 people in a small boat. We set out by boat towards the Greek coast. After a while, there was a hole in the boat. After a certain time, the engine of the boat broke down. It was 9 pm when this incident happened. We were stranded in the middle of the sea until 11 in the morning. We made a phone call to the Greek Police; we made a phone call to the Turkish Police. We said ‘we are in the middle of the sea’ to them. We begged for help. But no one answered our call for help. We tried to take the boat closer to the Turkish coast by our own efforts. After a certain time, we swam back to the Turkish shore.’’–Mehdi Reza Ghorbani
In this process, the situation has deteriorated to such a point that thousands of refugees lost their lives trying to migrate through these illegally. In 2015, we witnessed a sequence of overcrowded boats sinking in the Mediterranean.
The worst case happened in April, It is thought that 800 people lost their lives in a boat that sank off the coast of Libya alone. And in April of that year almost 1500 people drowned in the sea.
The migration of refugees into Turkey has been continuedsince 2015. During this process, the Turkish government had to host refugees far above its expectations.
The gradual increase in the number of refugees has created a chaotic atmosphere in Turkey as well. The enormous number of refugees created unrest among the people. A certain part of the population thought that the state should prioritize its own citizens before refugees. Furthermore, when multiple crimesbegan to be committed by refugees, the people attempted to declare through protests that they no longer accepted refugees in their country. However, neither the Turkish government nor the European Union was able to find a solution to these complaints. The only action done was to establish massive refugee camps all over the country and to place the refugees in these camps. The refugees in Turkey were perhaps the most devastating of these protests. Because of the crimes committed by a tiny percentage of migrants, all refugees are considered as second-class laborers. They were forced to live in terrible conditions at the camps where they were placed. Contrary to common opinion, the intention of Syrian nationals residing in Turkey is to relocate to Europe, not to dwell in Turkey. Because they can benefit from the legal privileges granted by their “refugee” status as a result of being able to pass to Europe
As I mentioned before, many refugees have been waiting in Turkey since the agreement in 2016. However, certain refugee groups were illegally immigrating to Greece, particularly by sea and land, in this process. It is known that Greek Police used tear gas on refugees attempting to enter the border. They strive to push back as many refugee groups trying to reach their country as possible. The intention of these efforts is to evade the responsibility, because in case these refugee groups set foot in their country, the responsibility of these people will belong to the Greek state. For these reasons, some of the refugees prefer Greek islands rather than big cities like Athens. Many of the refugees who arrive on the island stay there for months until the Greek government responds to their asylum application. Once the refugees arrive at the Greek border, they are brought immediately to the enormous refugee camps. The refugee camps are overcrowded, and they have limited access to clean water and electricity. The Greek government claims that the EU’s assistance is insufficient to address the needs of refugees.
Is the refugee problem a crisis or a trump card?
After the Idlib crisis on February 27, 2020 (the airstrike of Turkish soldiers by the Syrian armed forces supported by Russia, which resulted in the death of 34 Turkish soldiers), Turkey opened its border gates to Europe. Refugees in Turkey head the border gates to reach Europe. Turkey’s law enforcement agencies are actively involved in transporting refugees to border areas in addition to refugee associations and international organizations. The refugee problem is affected by the relations between both Turkey and Russia due to their active role in Syria. On the other hand, it also affects the European Union due to the refugee’s intention of reaching Europe. Thus, the situation affects the international community. It becomes a crisis. Although the Greek Police deployed a large number of officers and troops from the security forces to prevent refugees from crossing the Turkey-Greece border, more than 100,000 refugees migrated from Turkey to Europe in four days.
At that moment, the whole world realized that it gave Turkey a big trump card alongside a crisis. Because there is always a refugee trump card that Turkey can play as a result of disagreements with the European Union. After the Idlib crisis, Turkey has shown that it can easily send refugees to Europe whenever it wants. So much so that the European Union announced that it would support Turkey financially again on the issue of refugees and they agreed to keep the border gates closed. We can observe that there are many different forces in the world. These are sometimes money, sometimes weapons, and sometimes a group of people looking forward tomigrating.
“I am a refugee here, I was under the auspices of the United Nations, but unfortunately I was rejected. So the United Nations rejected me. Now I am under the auspices of an organization based in Helsinki. They didn’t even pick up a phone for exactly 1 year. What happened to you? What will your situation be? No one even bothers to ask me about them. I really do not know. There is no one to guide me. My age is advancing during my stay in Turkey. I want to go to university. He wants me to have a job of my own that I love. I want to fulfill my desires in this life. I do not want to lose all these desires as a result of an incident that my country has created against me.”–Mehdi Reza Ghorbani
Mehdi has been in Turkey for 7 years. There is still hope. He is waiting for the day when he can go to Europe and start his own life.
By 2021, there are refugees in every country. In Lithuania, Spain, Canada, Cyprus, and many more countries… The situation is getting better for refugees who migrated to these countries, but we must consider the other side of the coin. Refugees in countries such as Turkey are waiting to migrate to Europe… As a result of the pandemic which began in 2019, all interviews necessary for them to migrate to Europe were suspended. They have been in complete uncertainty for 2 years. While the number of refugees continues to rise, unfortunately, the solution still has not been found. It is acceptable that all countries care about and protect their own people. But shouldn’t refugees be considered and protected?