A new migration wave may be headed to Europe as thousands flee a Syrian military offensive, warned a spokesman for the Turkish government.
The spokesman, Ömer Çelik, said that Europe is ignoring Ankara’s warnings, with Turkey pointing out that an impending humanitarian crisis is building in Syria’s northwest Idlib province.
According to Turkish data, the continuous bombing by the Syrian government caused about 40,000 Syrians from Idlib to leave their homes and flee towards the Turkish border.
As Al Jazeera reports, warning of “humanitarian catastrophe” has been already issued by the United Nations, while the United States, France, and the United Kingdom call for emergency talks to stop the ground attacks.
“If Turkey’s warnings are not taken into consideration, we warn everyone that a refugee exodus will affect Europe to a large extent,” said Çelik, the spokesman for the Justice and Development Party.
Currently, Turkey has 12 outposts in the vicinity of Idlib, which originally served as de-escalation zones as agreed by Russia and Turkey in Sept. 2018. However, the deal came to an end after Assad and his Russian allies started to bombard Idlib in April 2019.
Since the conflict started in 2011, Turkey has accepted about 3.7 million Syrians. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated several times that he is ready to “open the gates” and allow the refugees to head to Europe if the EU ignores Turkey’s request for more help.
During a speech in October 2019, Erdogan said the world is not offering Turkey enough aid for sheltering Syria’s refugees, saying, “You either support us to have a safe zone in Syria, or we will have to open the gates. Either you support us or no one should feel sorry. We would like to host one million refugees in the safe zone.”
Turkey’s continuous threats to “flood” Europe with migrants has led to a range of concessions and aid packages from the EU in the past, including successful efforts to secure €3 billion in funding for refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into Europe.