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Ankara slams Liz Truss plan to send refugees to Turkiye in proposed extension of Rwanda deal

July 18, 2022 at 5:01 pm

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meet in Moscow, Russia on February 10, 2022 [RUS Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Turkiye has slammed plans by the British prime ministerial candidate, Liz Truss, to send refugees to the country from the UK, as Ankara continues to deal with the strain of millions of refugees and an increasingly heated political and social climate.

According to the Times newspaper on Saturday, the British Foreign Secretary and running candidate for the post of Conservative prime minister, Liz Truss, intends on opening negotiations with the Turkish government to accept migrants and refugees from the UK to Turkiye if she is elected.

Truss’s reported plan, which would also apply to other destination countries, follows on from the current UK government’s programme of sending migrants and refugees to the African nation of Rwanda, in a deal which sees London provide £100 million to Kigali in return for the holding of the asylum seekers.

That controversial programme is part of the British government’s efforts to deal with the recent influx of the refugees having crossed the English Channel in small boats, who have amounted to over 14,000 this year.

Only hours after the news report was published, Turkiye – a nation which already hosts the world’s largest refugee population at around 4 million refugees, primarily Syrians – refused Truss’s plans, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s official spokesman, Tanju Bilgiç stating that “We hope these claims relating to Ms Truss in the press are unfounded”.

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Bilgic stressed that “It is out of the question for our nation — the world’s largest host of refugees for the last eight years — to take on a greater burden at the request of a third country and, furthermore, to contribute to an approach that is incompatible with international rules on the right to asylum.”

The spokesman added that his country “will not become a refugee camp or border guard for any other country, nor will it, in any way, assume the international obligations of a third country.”

Truss’s campaign team has denied that she had drawn up an actual formal plan for the transport of refugees to Turkiye and other third countries, but her spokesperson has acknowledged that she brought up the idea with Conservative parliamentary backbencher, Christopher Chope, and that “Liz supports the Rwanda policy and supports extending it to other countries”.

Turkiye’s condemnation and refusal of the proposal comes at a time when anti-refugee and anti-migrant sentiment has spread amongst much of Turkish society over the past decade, as the country has been the main focal point for Syrians and others fleeing to Europe.

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeatedly defended the hosting of refugees and assured that their return will be voluntary and not forced, but that policy has made him a target of further pressure to look for solutions to the presence of the millions still remaining in the country. In elections next year, Erdogan is expected to have to face off against the growing popularity of opposition parties which are offering to indefinitely deport all refugees if they come to power.

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