JAKARTA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Europe on Friday of not doing enough to help refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq, suggesting it was responsible for people “drowning in the sea”.
Turkey, which has taken in some 1.8 million Syrian refugees since the conflict started in 2011, has repeatedly said that it has been left to shoulder a disproportionate burden as Western states stand by.
Erdogan has championed an “open-door” policy towards Syrian refugees, despite their increasing presence in major Turkish cities stoking tensions with locals.
The president complained again on Friday that Turkey had “welcomed” two million refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq while Europe had struggled to accept a tenth of that number.
“This is the type of country that we are,” Erdogan, through a translator, told an audience at a military think tank in Jakarta at the start of a two-day visit to Indonesia.
“But when you look at the whole of Europe, what you find is that they have not been able to welcome a mere 200,000 refugees in their countries.
“What’s more, when there are those who tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get into Europe, the attitude they have or the groundwork they lay is such that these people end up drowning in the sea,” he added.
The outspoken president has not been alone in criticising the West on refugees, with the UN’s refugee chief urging countries to follow Turkey’s lead and open up their borders.
Erdogan said this week the formation of a safe zone inside war-torn Syria, free from the Islamic State group, would help 1.7 million refugees return home.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2015