Turkey: Western world to be blamed for refugee deaths

4th Sep 2015
Turkey: Western world to be blamed for refugee deaths

ANKARA (AA): Turkey’s president on Thursday pointed the finger at Western governments for a worsening refugee crisis and the deaths and drownings of migrants seeking shelter from war-torn countries.

“To be honest, the whole Western world is to be blamed, in my opinion,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during an interview with CNN International.

He sounded a reflective tone when asked about the image of a lifeless Syrian toddler whose body washed ashore a Turkish coast as he and his family tried to reach the Greek islands.

“When we saw it we were devastated. And we asked the question to ourselves: Where is the conscience of humanity?,” he said.

Two-year-old Aylan Kurdi drowned, along with his 5-year-old brother, and mother. Their bodies, along with nine other victims, washed up along the coast of the Turkish resort town of Bodrum early Wednesday after the boat they were traveling in sank in the Aegean Sea.

The photos of the victims went viral on social media, sparking worldwide outrage and widespread condemnation from world leaders.

Erdogan said he unfortunately saw the image in a family setting with his children and grandchildren.

The picture made them cry, the president said, but it was not the first time as “many other children, mothers, fathers unfortunately have been drowned in the rough waters of the Mediterranean Sea,” he said. “Only our coastguards, since the beginning of this year, have saved more than 50,000 people.”

When reminded that he has blamed Europe for turning the Mediterranean into a cemetery, Erdogan said he meant it whole-heartedly because “that’s the reality”.

“The countries bordering the Mediterranean – they do not want these people no matter what’s the cost,” he said.

Turkey has a very different approach to refugees, according to Erdogan: As long as it has the means to house and welcome them, Turkey will.

“If they are at our borders, if they want to come in, we do welcome them in as guests. And then if there are those who need to be sent back to their countries, that’s what we do,” he said.

To support his point he pointed out that the number of Syrians and Iraqis in Turkey exceeds 2 million.

While highlighting Turkey’s assistance, he also faulted neighboring countries for not doing enough to ease the problem.

“For instance, Greece, Italy, Spain, and other countries including France, Hungary – they could easily do the same thing. Unfortunately, it has not been done so far. The same goes for Germany,” he added.

Erdogan also criticized Germany for saying Turkey should accept those people, and then they will pick some of those and accept them.

“What kind of an approach is that? It is not possible to understand that,” he asked rhetorically.

Europe is currently facing its biggest refugee crisis in decades, with thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East and African trying to reach Western Europe.

A record 100,000 refugees reached EU borders in July, while more than 150,000 entered Hungary in the first eight months of the year. Germany alone expects 800,000 asylum applications in 2015, four times the number last year.

Approximately 2,500 refugees and migrants have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe this year alone, according to the UN.

“Just like I’m in an office of responsibility, these people are also in an office of responsibility. So what they need to do is to conduct a joint operation and give these people an opportunity to save themselves,” he said, adding that he does not want to see similar cases like that of Aylan, the drowned Syrian toddler.

As of January, Turkey has hosted approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, including 217,000 in 22 camps, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

Government statists show Turkey has already accepted more refugees than any other country, 1.9 million, and has spent nearly $6 billion on Syrian citizens – including refugees – since 2011.

Author: Feyza Süsal
[Photo: Abdullah Kurdi (L) , father of Syrian children Aylan ,2, his brother Galip, 3, and husband of Zahin Kurdi, 27, who drowned after their boat sank en route to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, is seen as he leaves the institution of forensic medicine with the coffins of his family in Mugla, Turkey on September 3, 2015. 12 people, including eight children, drowned after their boat sank en route to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Their bodies had washed up on the shores of Turkey’s tourist destination of Bodrum on September 2, 2015.Photographer: Durmuş Genç/Anadolu Agency]

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