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Europe can learn lessons from Turkiye on how to handle refugee crisis: Turkish Communications Chief

ANKARA, TURKIYE - JANUARY 10: Turkiye's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun meets with journalists as part of the Jan. 10 Working Journalists' Day, on January 10, 2022 in Ankara, Turkiye. ( Raşit Aydoğan - Anadolu Agency )
Turkiye's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun meets with journalists as part of the Jan. 10 Working Journalists' Day, on January 10, 2022 in Ankara, Turkiye [Raşit Aydoğan - Anadolu Agency]

Europe can learn lessons from Turkiye on how to humanely handle the refugee crisis triggered by the Ukraine-Russia war, Turkiye's Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun, said on Friday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

"As it contemplates how to handle this humanitarian crisis, Europe can turn to Turkiye for some lessons. After all, Turkiye has been handling refugee waves from the Middle East efficiently and humanely for many years, while most European nations were inflicting additional suffering on vulnerable victims of conflict with their 'security-first' asylum policies," Fahrettin Altun said in a guest op-ed for Al Jazeera English online.

In the piece, titled "What Turkiye can teach Europe about handling a refugee crisis," Altun underlined that Turkiye always treated the refugees it hosts with "humanity and respect."

"Unlike in Europe, where many politicians routinely resort to anti-immigration rhetoric for quick political gain, the Turkish leadership consistently resisted attempts by the domestic opposition to stoke anti-refugee sentiment in the country," he said.

Saying that refugees, regardless of where they come from, found a "true haven in Turkiye," Altun said, "The Turkish government refused to scapegoat refugees in the wake of terror attacks."

Turkiye's handling of refugee crisis

As for how Turkiye was successful in handling the refugee crisis, Altun said that the Turkish government has always been transparent about why and how it welcomes refugees in the country.

"Our government has always made an effort to make sure the public at large is aware of what is going on in Syria, and the threats civilians are facing there," he added.

He added: "Unlike many of their European counterparts, Turkiye's leaders did not allow far-right populism and anti-refugee activism to prosper in the country."

A second major reason why Turkiye achieved its goal to handle the refugee crisis, said Altun, is that there has never been discrimination against refugees in Turkiye based on their ethnicity, religion or gender.

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"We, for example, opened our arms to all Syrians trying to escape the war: Arabs escaping the brutal Assad regime, Kurds running away from ISIL (Daesh), and Turkomans persecuted and pushed out by the (Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK) YPG, all found refuge in our country," he added.

Contrary to Turkiye's stance, he said, the discriminatory asylum policies of some European nations could trigger "destructive waves of xenophobia and racism."

He stressed that "Turkiye has never found the strong support it needed from the international community during the refugee crisis triggered by Syria's conflict, except when our European allies felt threatened by irregular migration waves."

'International community should learn from past mistakes'

He also urged the international community to learn lessons from its past mistakes and never abandon countries neighbouring Ukraine, unlike "the way Europe abandoned Turkiye during the Syrian refugee crisis."

On solving the refugee crisis, he said: "Turkiye always knew the ultimate resolution to any refugee crisis comes from ending its root cause: wars, military operations, conflicts."

On the importance of diplomacy to save the lives of millions of civilians, Altun said: "The West is now trying to increase the costs of its actions in Ukraine for Russia, but it should not lose sight of the need to find a diplomatic solution for the sake of millions of innocent civilians."

"It is high time for Europe to create an atmosphere where all refugees are welcome, regardless of their background," he added.

The number of Syrians living in Turkiye is now around 4 million and, according to the Interior Ministry, nearly 175,000 Syrians received Turkish citizenship between 2011 – when the Syrian civil war began – and 2021.

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