In the absurdity of local treatments for the refugee issue

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Ghazwan Korunfol

What was published by the “Turkey” newspaper, close to the ruling party, regarding a project to deport 200,000 Syrians during the coming year, was not something new, surprising, or outside the general context of the Turkish government’s approach to the refugee file. The procedures and administrative instructions issued by them have always created more complexity and pressure on the lives of Syrians, which are not intended to be stable. This starts with the complexities of issuing or correcting protection cards, updating information, and confirming addresses, and includes the almost complete ban on travel between states except in very limited cases. It doesn’t end with the decisions to close hundreds of neighborhoods to foreign residents, contributing to the worsening conditions and leaving them at the mercy of property owners who impose rent increases often exceeding 100% and sometimes even double that. All of these measures can be described as restrictive, with the intention – whether intended or not by those who issued them – to make Syrians realize that they have no stability in Turkey and that they must seriously consider returning to their country, especially since many of them no longer have the ability to look for other alternatives due to the high costs that are not available to many.

First of all, it should be noted that this project, which has been covered by many visual and written media outlets, and which has been debunked, is not outside the general context of the strategic vision of the Turkish government regarding the refugee file. They have previously announced, through more than one official, including the President himself, that there is a plan to voluntarily repatriate one million Syrians to northern Syria and resettle them in specially built settlements. Therefore, the project to repatriate 200,000 Syrians can be understood as part of the program to repatriate one million Syrians, in a bustling effort to finally close the refugee file.

The truth is that the refugee issue in general is no longer viewed or dealt with as a human rights issue, not only in Turkey but also in Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. There have been growing demands to return Syrians to their homeland, and serious steps have been taken in varying proportions by those countries in that direction, despite not achieving any breakthrough regarding the supposed political solution to the Syrian issue.

Even in many European countries, the choice of voters has been to vote for right-wing parties – as in Italy, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands – which do not want refugees and no longer welcome any new waves of asylum seekers. Many European governments have taken restrictive measures and added new legal requirements in an attempt to impose strict limits on the asylum file in general. They have also increased the funding sent to Turkey and other countries to make more efforts to reduce illegal migration within the framework of the famous Turkey-EU agreement and other bilateral agreements with African countries. Some governments have even agreed with other countries to transfer asylum seekers to them in exchange for huge funding and the expenditure on them in those countries (as in the British agreement with Rwanda and the Italian agreement with Albania), despite these agreements violating European laws.

The voting operations for right-wing parties in many European countries indicate that the general public sentiment in those countries no longer welcomes refugees as it did during the large influx in 2015 and 2016. And undoubtedly, there are many other factors, most of which are related to the economic conditions in those countries, and some are related to the inability of many refugees to integrate and comply with European laws, which they believe do not align with their values or beliefs.

The issue, then, is no longer just about Turkey or Lebanon alone, despite the differences in the situations of refugees in those countries compared to European countries considering the legal status of refugees in those countries. In my opinion, the issue is related to a complete file called “the refugee file,” which everyone is looking for solutions to. Unfortunately, they all dig for and approximate all imaginable solutions, except for one solution that is related to the root of the problem and its causes, the authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships that are supported.

A radical solution to the refugee issue is not to restrict them and turn their lives in the havens they thought were safe into a hell and nightmare that threatens their stability, nor is it to sign agreements to ship them to other countries as if they were livestock to be fattened in farms outside the European paradise. The solution to this dilemma has one door and one escape, which is practical support for the process of democratic transformation in the countries that are the source of refugees, and to stop plundering their resources and build positive and equal relationships with their governments resulting from the free will of their citizens. Supporting opportunities for development and decent living in those countries is the only way, and all other alleged solutions are just temporary measures at best, perhaps because the solution industry is in a narrow place on the other side of the Atlantic.

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