BY TÜLAY DEMIR
MAY 13, 2022 – DAILY SABAH
While the struggle against irregular migrants continues, Turkey is also looking for ways to safely send those who escaped war in Syria back to their country. Efforts carried out for this purpose have begun to bear fruit
To be honest, I don’t like the new world order. The world is unhappy and depressed as if its new motto were “dreamlessness and hopelessness.” As millions of people are dragged into a tragic battle for survival in the shadow of war, pandemics, economic crises and famine, the search for a safe haven is on the rise. The result is a frightening wave of immigration affecting the entire planet.
Due to its close proximity to war zones, Turkey is one of the countries with the heaviest traffic of irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees. But contrary to a perception that is trying to be established, it is not the only country facing this problem.
During my travels to Europe, I have seen thousands of people who are stateless and homeless, people who set out to obtain refugee status but have been left in a bind. They are sleeping on the streets and forming long lines in the front of government offices in the hope of finding an exit. Unfortunately, these situations are taken for granted there as well.
This rapid change, of course, has become a problem that we need to solve. This is because our part of the world is constantly boiling, and those who are fleeing the line of fire travel thousands of kilometers and end up at our borders. Is there an increasing concern that our demographic structure will deteriorate due to this migration traffic? Absolutely! But is the situation as tragic as it is portrayed? Is it possible to talk about an invasion? Absolutely not!
I also recently mentioned this on social media: It is true that there is a refugee problem in Turkey. But a lack of order is out of the question. As far as I know, the security forces are always on the alert. The news and statistics that are ignored already reveal this fact, but those who are seeking provocation add fuel to the fire by writing “don’t believe this!” under every news story about the subject.
The first requirement for disrupting this perception operation is to be informed about it and to get rid of the misconception that every foreigner on the street is a refugee. First of all, we need to know what the concepts of refugee, asylum-seeker and immigrant mean in order to not be deceived. We shouldn’t be dragged into the chaos by engaging in speculation without being informed.
Refugee or immigrant?
The word “refuge” is on everyone’s tongue at the moment. It is believed that all of the millions flowing into Turkey have refugee status, and that the state embraces all foreigners and provides them with social security. This perception needs to be changed and the truth needs to be highlighted immediately.
For one thing, refugee status is valid for people who cannot return to their country due to the fear that they will be killed or persecuted because of their race, religion or political opinion. This definition also has a place in international law. Asylum-seeker is a term that covers people who request international protection for the same reasons but whose status has not yet been clarified. Immigrants are those who choose to live in another country and fulfill its legal procedures, not for reasons such as war but for their material and spiritual welfare.
Let’s address the subject that we need to focus on: irregular immigrants. They set out with the same reasons as immigrants, with the dream of a better life. But they violate the law by entering countries illegally, and they should be deported when caught. Irregular immigrants not only cause the demographic structure to deteriorate, they also create a security risk because they do not have any records in the country.
The vulnerability and disorder caused by irregular migrants have caused a justified reaction. However, there is a struggle day and night to eliminate this risk, and this should not be ignored. This is because when this struggle is ignored, the fine line between racism and nationalism can be blurred.
Recently, teams from the Department of Counter Migrant Smuggling and Border Gates launched a large-scale operation to catch foreign nationals that enter Turkey illegally. This was carried out in seven districts of Istanbul simultaneously, and as a result, 232 irregular migrants were caught. On the same day, 57 irregular migrants were caught in five districts in efforts independent from the aforementioned operation. In total, the number of irregular migrants apprehended between May 1 and May 7 reached 3,210. This is just what happened in one week in Istanbul. It should be noted that these operations are continuing throughout Turkey.
Reverse migration step by step
While the struggle against irregular migrants continues, Turkey is also looking for ways to safely send those who escaped war in Syria back to their country. Efforts carried out for this purpose have begun to bear fruit. So far, a total of 500,000 asylum-seekers have returned on their own accord to the safe zone in Syria established by Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently gave the good news that efforts have been initiated for the return of 1 million more Syrian asylum-seekers. Judging by the outlook, the reverse migration wave will continue at an accelerated pace. Asylum-seekers who are far from their country, their home and their loved ones will smile once again, and those worried about the explosion of the foreign population in Turkey will have their fears erased. Those who are patient, seek humane solutions and put people first will win.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Op-Ed contributor based in Istanbul