Migration minister warns of new 'flow of refugees' after Turkish incursion in Syria

Migration minister warns of new 'flow of refugees' after Turkish incursion in Syria
Minister Maggie De Block said that the Turkish operation in Syria could lead to a new "stream of refugees" coming to Europe. Credit: © Belga

The Turkish military operation in Syria will create a new "flow of refugees," a large majority of whom will come to Europe, Federal Migration Minister Maggie De Block said.

"The flow of refugees will come to Europe," De Block said in an interview with Radio 1 on Thursday, saying the chances of that happening were of "nine out of ten."

At least 300,000 people have been reported as displaced as a result of Turkey's military operation in northeastern Syria, aimed at flushing out Kurdish fighters from Syria.

Turkey regards the Kurds as terrorists, but fighters from the stateless nation were a key ally of the West, which bore the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State (IS) terror group in the region.

De Block said that the fallout from the Turkish operation, which was launched after the US withdrew troops from the area, would have consequences for the entire European Union.

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"We are not only talking about the former IS fighters and their wives, but also about the stream of refugees," De Block said, warning of a new migration crisis.

A week into the incursion, reports broke that a prison in which Kurdish fighters kept members of the IS had been hit by an airstrike, with hundreds said to have escaped.

"There are 3.5 million refugees there," she added, in what appeared to be a reference to the number of refugees in Turkish territory, which Turkey said it would aim to move back to Syria.

Following news that the US had brokered a five-day ceasefire with Turkey, De Block said that the solution lay with EU leaders, calling on them to update the bloc's asylum policies.

"A better asylum policy really needs to be made at the European level," De Block said.

"The European Union is too slow on taking decisions on, for example, return policy," she added. "I became responsible for asylum and migration in 2011 (...) when I returned in 2018, nothing had changed."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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