Amid security, domestic concerns, Turkey relocates refugees
The government's move aims to reduce tensions in Hatay Province.
By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 11/09/12
Turkish authorities are relocating Syrian refugees from the border areas or are urging them to enter refugee camps to lessen fears that strife from its southern neighbour will spill across the border.
Turkey is housing about 80,000 refugees in the camps along the Syrian border, while another 40,000 live in rented houses or apartments in the border area, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Another 5,000 refugees are on the border and will enter after Turkey builds more camps, The Associated Press reported.
The government said that any Syrians who entered Turkey legally can remain if they move north, away from the border, and apply for visas. Refugees without passports are being asked to go to refugee camps.
Government officials said that some refugees, who entered the country legally and lived outside the camps, were in danger of exceeding their legal limit of a three-month stay.
The move is expected to reduce tensions in Hatay Province.
"The people of Hatay [Province] have always welcomed their Syrian brothers and lived together for thousands of years without regard for ethnicity or religion," Orhan Karasayar, an AKP MP from Hatay Province, told SES Türkiye, adding "only those who intend to bring instability, threaten democracy and security in Turkey are not welcomed."
Veysel Ayhan, the chairman of the International Middle East Peace Research Centre, said that the relocating the refugees inland or to the campus is connected with the registration measures, but also with the domestic tensions and security.
"If the Syrian conflict is going to be fixed by peace and diplomatic measures, the relocation of the refugees from the bordering territory should be the first step," he told SES Türkiye, arguing, most of the refugees that fleeing to Turkey "leave with the revanche feelings."
"As long as they [the refugees] remain in Hatay, where they can leave to Syria and return anytime they want, or crash with other minorities, there will be no stability in the region," Ayhan said.
The government is now facing mounting questions about the bordering security, said Yasin Atlioglu, a Syria analyst at the Istanbul-based Turkish Asian Centre for Strategic Studies.
"No one can guarantee that the rebels, who are crossing the border regularly, are not being accompanied by the members of the al-Qaeda or Libya-based terror groups, while in the east, Kurdish militants who Turkey alleges are aided by Syria are intensifying deadly attacks," Atlioglu told SES Türkiye.
"The main concern here is, again, the possible security gap in the border region," he said.