With more than a month passing since two deadly earthquakes shook Turkiye’s southern regions, an international migration policy organisation has offered to build a “Solidarity Bridge” between its member state, Turkiye, and other members, Anadolu News Agency reports.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu, Michael Spindelegger, Director-General of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), expressed his “condolences to all those who have lost somebody during this period”.
Commenting on his solidarity visit to quake-hit Kahramanmaras province, Spindelegger said “I think this is the disaster of the century. I’ve never seen, during my life, something like that.”
Emphasising the need “to look forward”, he said it was also important to acknowledge “how to react, what is the professional way to deal with the issue, and I’ve seen a lot of very good work that is being done on the ground, organising something, helping people, supporting also the refugees that are here in the country.”
“From that point of view, I think it is well on the way just to start the reconstruction process, to give temporary housing to people and food and medical treatment — all these issues that are so much necessary at the moment,” he noted.
He further pledged on behalf of ICMPD to “will do everything to support Turkiye in this situation, to bring the help down to the earth and to look forward what could be done from a professional point of view, to give perspective to people.”
The Vienna-based organisation, which has 19 members, aims to promote innovative, comprehensive and sustainable migration policies and to enhance cooperation in the field of migration.
On 7 March, the ICMPD held a meeting in the Turkish capital, Ankara, with all 19 of its member states at Turkiye’s Presidency of Migration Management and discussed ways “to look forward, what the needs are, the immediate needs, and what our member states could do”, according to Spindelegger.
“We brought up the idea of a solidarity bridge between Turkiye and our member states, and we are looking forward to getting a response from the member states, what could be done by them in addressing the needs of Turkiye at the moment,” he said.
Saying that the “Solidarity Bridge” would not only aim for monetary aid, Spindelegger said “the needs for shelters, needs for housing of people, the needs for food and the need for medical treatment” could also be met, with aims to help people on the ground.
He also emphasised that the first issue is “to react to the immediate needs” and said “the second issue is how to start projects because the immediate needs will be done.”
“We have to think about the future,” he said, adding it could be done by starting projects, such as houses and reconstruction of communities, and “the international community and our member states could deliver something” in this regard.
Asked about Turkiye chairing of the ICMPD Steering Group this year, Spindelegger said the group had embarked on a “very ambitious program” before the massive earthquakes struck Turkiye.
“Of course, sometimes life is doing the unexpected, so now we have to react. But we should not underestimate also the necessity for different issues that are still ongoing,” he said, adding that on the migration issue, “Turkiye will bring up a lot of initiatives — how to deal with the countries of origin where people come from, what are the situations in the source countries, what could be done better to give people a perspective in the country so that they are not leaving in an irregular way to come somewhere.”
Noting the need for the ICMPD Steering Group to go forward as the migration issue has to be looked at in the “broader picture”, Spindelegger expressed his gratitude to Turkiye for presiding over the steering group doing “these different initiatives, because it’s necessary to come along with a good friend for the next years to establish migration partnerships with countries of origin.”
He also said the group would help produce ideas to resolve issues related to migration and “we should start with pilot projects because it’s always best to look in practice at how this works and what does not work.”
“My personal priority is to involve the private sector more in these migration issues, because if it comes to the perspectives in the countries of origin, the private sector can play a really big role in giving workplaces, starting with investment and putting people to their own perspective for their lives. So, I think there are a lot of ideas on the table and we have to look forward to form it and to bring up pilot projects to look at how this could work in practice,” he added.
Turkiye has been a key transit point for irregular migrants wanting to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.