With Turkey Misdirecting Funds, the plight of Syrian Refugees in Turkey remains a pressing issue

The suffering of Syrian refugees in Turkey persists not only due to the actions of Erdogan’s government, which exploits them, but also because the opposition has started fiercely attacking the presence of Syrians. Meanwhile, a European Union (EU) report has indicated that substantial amounts of money were sent to Ankara for the purpose of assisting refugees, yet the destination and use of these funds remain unknown.

At a time the Turkish state continues a xenophobic campaign against Syrian refugees, Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul and descended from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), suddenly criticizing the Turkish government’s policies regarding receiving people who fled the Syrian war in the past, he believes that the country will face severe consequences for this after 30 or 40 years, meaning that the attack against refugees has become from the government and opposition figures.

The victimization of refugees

On the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Iraqi human rights activist Nihad al-Qadi said Target Media Platform, that Turkey is capitalizing the refugees card politically in confronting European countries, as Turkey received refugees as well played a major role in their displacement due to the military operations that Turkey carried out in Syria, and its impact on the overall unrest in Syria.

Al-Qadi added that Ankara is using refugees to pressure on Europe for political goals, including, the silence of the countries on the violations carried out by Turkey in the regions of North East Syria (NES) through strikes that are repeated from time to time. The Europeans of course have their fears of any wave of refugees if Erdogan opens the door under the current global economic conditions.

Imamoglu’s statements about refugees, whom he considered the biggest problem facing his country. Especially, as this problem emerged in parallel time of the municipal elections with provoked anger and disapproval, as observers expect that the refugee file will be pivotal role in directing the votes of voters, and that it will be the same case with the Kurdish file.

According to the latest official statistics in Turkey, there are about 3.7 million Syrians who have obtained temporary protection, while the number of Syrians with Turkish citizenship has reached about 230,000, of whom about 530,000 refugees are settled in Istanbul, while the city of Gaziantep ranks second by hosting about 450,000 Syrian refugees, while large numbers of them are distributed in the cities of the southeast of the country.

The funds for refugees

Last year, a report by the EU said that it had provided 10 billion euros since 2011, to support refugees in Turkey, according to the seventeenth annual report regarding Turkey’s refugees issue, which was published by the EU through one of its official websites, it explains what Ankara has benefited from this issue.

Adel Khattab, migrants file responsible in the Italian Liberal Party, told Target Media Platform that the EU countries know very well that this amount has not been spent entirely for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The amount of funds were used for refugees is just mere ink on paper, he pointing out that Ankara used this issue mainly to pressure the EU to obtain funds or for some political purposes.

Khattab criticized the mistreatment of Syrian refugees in Turkey, and racism not only against refugees but against all Arabs residing in Turkey, he stressed that these assaults are increasing day by day, even by those concerned with the refugee file and many European organizations. The problem is that there are some political alignments between Europe and Ankara that may push those countries to remain silent.

Khattab added that Syrian refugees in Turkey are challenged twice, the first by the Turkish state’s exploitation of the money obtained in exchange for hosting refugees, also using it in other matters that do not belong to them, the second challenge is the racism they face, alongside their suffering of war that they carry, especially since many of them struggle to earn a living in any country they go.

This is how the funds were utilized

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said in a statement to Target Media Platform that Turkey received these funds and was spending it for Turkish state. Meantime, Ankara claiming that it spends the money of its own treasury for Syrian refugees, as we all know that since 2016, the issues of Syrian refugees in Turkey has become a trading card for the Erdogan government.

Abdel Rahman added that this has been evident since 2015, when we saw the Turkish state opened the crossings, which prompted thousands of refugees to head towards Europe. Therefore, European countries found themselves forced to pay millions of euros to the Turkish authorities to stop these waves of refugees, also to finance the cost of Syrians living in Turkey, a part of this money was spending on Syrian refugees, another part was spending on municipalities where refugees are located, in the end the spending on refugees does not exceed in the most extreme cases 40% of the funds of that Turkey got for.

According to Abdul Rahman, explanation for this low percentage, whether if this means plundering of the money, he said that it cannot be plundering, but it was used in a way that serves Turkish interests mainly, not for the Syrian refugees. givig that Turkish authorities are racist against them, but even that these authorities have caused them of burden of the recent economic crisis which they face, as well as the failure of the municipal administrations in which the Syrian refugees are located.

Unregulated funds amidst Turkish extortion

Turkey used to accept those funds in exchange for providing favorable treatment to people who fled from war. However, in recent months, Turkey has engaged in forced deportations, intensive security campaigns, and acts of racism against refugees. Verbal and physical attacks, at times escalating to murder, have occurred. This situation raises several questions regarding the destiny of the money that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received in return for hosting them.

Mustafa Salah, an Egyptian researcher specialized in Turkish affairs, expressed in a statement to Target Media Platform his agreement with the director of the Syrian Observatory. Salah mentioned that Turkey’s utilization of the funds received from European countries in exchange for hosting Syrian refugees, or at least a significant number of them, is a subject that raises numerous questions and concerns. This is particularly noteworthy as there is no agreed-upon mechanism for monitoring the expenditure of European funds allocated to refugees.

Salah explained that the 2015, witnessed an agreement between Turkey and the EU to finance refugee camps and services for them, the agreement was then worth 3 billion euros. This agreement welcomed by Turkey, and even Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed that his country will remain home to Syrian refugees until the crisis is resolved and they return again to their homeland.

Salah highlighted that the issue arose when European countries started realizing that the funds allocated for Syrian refugees were not being used as expected. In the absence of proper oversight, there is a potential risk that these funds might either flow into the treasury of the Turkish state or be appropriated by certain Turkish politicians. Hence, it can be characterized as unmonitored money.

Salah referred that Turkey leverages the refugee issue to secure funds or concessions from European countries. He emphasized that Europe’s failure to include provisions related to monitoring the spending of these funds is not due to naivety; rather, these countries were primarily focused on halting the influx of asylum seekers. However, in response to Turkish blackmail and the discriminatory treatment of refugees, these countries have started to reduce financial support and explore alternative solutions.

The researcher affirmed that the European stance on refugees shifted towards establishing camps inside Syria, aiming to address the crisis at its source. In this approach, Europe leaned on the Kurds rather than the Turks. Consequently, the Turkish regime grew displeased with the presence of refugees as financial support was on the verge of being halted. This led to the initiation of forced deportations of refugees, serving as a form of ongoing blackmail against European countries for monetary concessions.

The few past months have witnessed a plan by the Turkish president to forcibly return hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees to what he describes as Safe Areas in North Syria, where Turkey occupied it, and continues to build settlements in, but behind these settlements are goals related to changing the demographic composition by bringing Syrian Arabs and settling them at the expense of the indigenous population, it may not be excluded that part of the European funds were directed to the construction of these settlements.

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