Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Thursday to allow a new wave of migrants to move on to the EU if his country did not receive more international aid.
Over 3.5 million of the four million refugees living in Turkey are Syrians and Ankara is looking for international aid for a plan to create a “safe zone” in Syria to which they could be moved.
Erdogan called on Europe to provide logistical support so that Turkey can build houses across the border in a section of northern Syria that it controls and provide the returnees with humanitarian living conditions.
“We are saying we should form such a safe zone that we, as Turkey, can build towns instead of the tent cities here,” Erdogan said in a televised address in Ankara, adding that this would ease things for Turkey.
“Either this happens or otherwise we will have to open the gates,” Erdogan added. “Either you will provide support or, excuse us, but we are not going to carry this weight alone. We have not been able to get help from the international community, namely the European Union.”
He also brought up the situation in Idlib, the Syrian province on the border with Turkey that is home to about three million people. The area is subject to bombardments by the Syrian regime and an increasing flow of Afghan refugees toward Turkey.
“We have not had sufficient support, and we will be obliged to do this to obtain it,” Erdogan said, adding that Turkey had spent 40 billion dollars, but had only received three billion euros from the EU to take care of the Syrian refugees.
An agreement concluded in 2016 between the EU and Ankara provides for the return to Turkey of migrants entering Greece illegally, in exchange for six billion euros from the EU for Ankara.
The Brussels Times