While Europe struggles to come to grips with a wave of Syrian refugees, new figures out of Turkey indicate just how much the crisis has cost the country. Hurriyet Daily News reports:
Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population, has so far spent $7.6 billion caring for 2.2 million Syrians who have fled strife there, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on Sept.18.
Turkey has been on the front lines of the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two. It shares a 900-km (566 miles) border with Syria and has adopted an “open-door policy” towards those fleeing the civil war, now in its fifth year.
Many of the refugees, though not most, are then trying to head toward the European Union. But while Europe is paralyzed, Turkey has acted:
A record 300,000 or more Syrians and other migrants have arrived in Greece, mostly setting off from Turkey’s Aegean coast, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
“Our Coast Guard units have rescued 53,228 people, while 274 people have died” in Turkish waters, Kurtulmuş said at a news conference.
In the first place, this story underlines how, for all its faults (and there have been many lately), the Turkish government has for years dealt with the humanitarian fallout of the Syrian Civil War, often virtually unassisted. It would be hard to blame Turkey for not minding when some of the refugees want to make it to Europe—and yet, Ankara also goes to great expense to patrol the waters of the Mediterranean, something Europe has not yet been able to coordinate properly.
In the second place, the figures themselves, while reflecting the lengths to which Turkey has gone to assist its displaced neighbors, are also sure to serve as a disincentive to many European governments to take a bigger share of the problem on.
Easy, cheap, or quick fixes to this crisis are not likely to come in any form. And the longer the West has delayed with engaging in Syria, the worse our options—and those of the Syrian people—have become.