Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a September 5, 2019 speech that was aired by Ihlas News Agency (Turkey) that Syrian refugees are not living in humane conditions, and he criticized the international community and the European Union for not giving Turkey financial and logistical support for the construction of housing for refugees in a 20-mile-deep safe zone along Turkey's border with Syria. He said that the situation is further exacerbated by refugees from Afghanistan and by developments in Idlib, and he threatened that Turkey might be "forced" to open its border into Europe if it does not receive the support it is requesting. He asked: "Are we to be the only ones to bear this burden?" He added that Turkey is cooperating closely with Russia in order to keep Idlib and Syria safe.
Following are excerpts:
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: "Think about it, we have cities made of shipping containers and tents, but people cannot live there in a humane way. You talk about living in a humane way and about having others live in a humane way. At the same time, you [respond] to our offer of a safe zone [by saying]: 'It's a really great offer.' I also said this to the honorable İmamoğlu... 'it's a really great offer.' Okay, if it's a great offer, let's have the housing built. You can give us some financial and logistical support. Here, right now – let's build this housing in the Syria region, in northern Syria. It has a depth of what the honorable Trump calls 20 miles, or 30 kilometers, along the length of our border, which, as you know, is 910 kilometers... In this way, let's make it possible for them to live humanely. If we have local architects make for them housing that is 250 or 300 square meters, and around them small gardens of 100-150 square meters... If they plant and mow it... If nothing else, they will have learned to fish [for themselves] instead of [eating] prepared fish.
"'It's a really great offer.' Well, if it's a great offer, then let's start the job. But they don't. Of course, we will continue to pursue [the matter]. Why? In our country there are 3,650,000... Now there is the Idlib threat, I'll talk about that later on. In addition, there are those coming from Afghanistan, and so forth... They are coming, but we are sending them back. But I'll say that this journey may bring us to a different place. What is the different place? If [we get the support], great. If not, we'll be forced to open the [border] gates. If you are going to give support, give it. If you're not going to give it, then pardon me. We have tolerated this up to a point and we [continue to] tolerate it. Are we to be the only ones to bear this burden? We cannot be an instrument of this kind of injustice to these people. You look and see how this work is carried out. I am saying it here today: We have not received from the world – least of all from the EU – the necessary support on the matter of the refugees that we have hosted, and to get [that support] we may be forced to [open the border].
"Of course, we will continue to give our support until this work is completed. The developments in Idlib will pose the threat of another flow of millions of refugees toward our country. In close cooperation with Russia, by keeping Idlib safe, we are trying to make it possible for the people here to live in their own homes."