Global Independent Analytics

Migrants' Return Raises Anxiety in Turkey

“Did we turn Syrians back? No, we didn't, but EU did.”

Luis Ramirez reporting for Voice of America: After the first group of migrants from the Middle East returned to Turkey, a small team of Turkish Human Rights activists assembled at the Turkish port of Dikili to welcome them.

It was a touching thing to do, but hardly a popular one among the general population. And the popular opinion seems to be swaying, with rising concerns and nervousness among Turks, who are questioning the migrants’ will to return to their countries of origin.

People from Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan have arrived in Turkey from Greece, where they were spending their last few weeks waiting for Europe to open its borders. Turkey expects thousands more people to return in just next couple of months alone as a part of the signed deal.

This deal brings Istanbul billions of dollars in aid, the possibility of visa-free travel to Europe, and, potentially, accession to the EU. For every migrant returned, Turkey sends one Syrian refugee to the EU. However, some Turks condemn the deal, saying it does little to widen their long-sought access to Europe. It’s definitely a problem President Erdogan would have to address sooner or later if he doesn’t want to deal with civil unrest.

For the president himself, this agreement provides an opportunity to improve his political stance after a brutal media crackdown and his actions against the ethnic minority of Kurds on the south border.

This week, Erdogan criticized the European Union's approach to the migration crisis.

"Did we turn Syrians back? No, we didn't, but they [EU nations] did," he said in Ankara. "By way of placing razor wire, they did not let these people into their countries. We see who is dying on the Aegean Sea, but the number of those rescued by us on the Aegean is 100,000."

But that rhetoric seems to be not so popular with people.

"This is the main thing: that we don't know what [is] going to happen because we don't know those people and where they will live and if they [are given] a place anywhere in Turkey if it is a secured place," said a marketing manager form Izmir, who identified himself only as Emre.

Cansu Akbas Demirel, an international relations and migration studies scholar at Ege University in Izmir, says the government's approach reflects the anxiety and fear of many Turks that the migrants may never leave. 

"Turkish people are now understanding they [the migrants] will not go to back to their country, especially in the [next] 10 years, maybe more. Maybe they will become citizens of Turkey," she said.

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

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