by John Brian Shannon | 21/09/14
In the past 2 days, more than 100,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey to escape renewed attacks by ISIS fighters — leading to unprecedented strains on the ability of the UNHCR and the Turkish government to cope with the mass influx
NATO member Turkey, having declined to participate in military missions inside Iraq or Syria, is now facing one of the largest humanitarian crises in years. Due to the the Iraq War and other regional conflicts over the past 20 years Turkey is now home to more than 1.37 million refugees in a country of 75 million.
Although Turkey is a developed country and blessed with a robust economy growing at 4% annually, taking in 1.37 million refugees is beginning to take its toll on the economy and Turkish residents. Unemployment has rocketed past 8% and inflation is now affecting the disposable income of Turkish families.
Turkey has the world’s 17th largest nominal GDP, and 15th largest GDP by PPP. The country is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and the G-20 (1999). Since December 31, 1995, Turkey is also a part of the EU Customs Union. Turkey is the world’s 15th largest economy and 6th overall in Europe. — Wikipedia
As good as all that sounds, cracks are beginning to show as citizens are being asked to shoulder a rapidly growing burden in the form of hundreds of thousands fleeing violence and death in their homelands.
To put it in perspective, what would happen if 1 million refugees suddenly showed up in your country and your citizens had to foot the bill?
In addition to higher taxes, Turkish citizens have had to contend with a doubling of the inflation rate and a doubling of the unemployment rate. Neither stat is improving as hundreds of thousands more refugees stream across the Turkish border.
Of course the Turks want to help the refugees, but not to the point of economic collapse.
Which is why the international community must begin sending billions of dollars to Turkey
If not, Turkey can simply close off its borders — and Europe, North America, and the Middle East will be forced to accept the terrified families fleeing the atrocities they’ve witnessed, and keep them in good health until the whole ISIS debacle is over. Which might take a decade or two.
World leaders should hold a conference as soon as possible for the purposes of establishing an ongoing, per capita donation amount to defray Turkey’s refugee expenditures until the crisis is over
When you host 1 million people fleeing war, and have 100,000 arriving every few days, no amount really can really cover it. But some help is better than none. Soon it will be 2 million refugees.
Donations from other nations of 5,000 tents, and food for 5,000 people for one month, don’t even begin to make a dent in the overall situation. Let alone trying to arrange transport and set-up facilities on such short notice and provide responsible people to oversee the whole operation.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cannot be expected to handle such overwhelming numbers on its own without a major increase in funding.
The sheer magnitude of the problem is affecting the economy of Turkey, a nation of 75 million people. How can the UNHCR with 8,600 staff operating in 126 countries — and an insufficient budget to start with — be expected to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Turkey each week? And no end in sight.
Why should nations generously donate to the UNHCR effort in Turkey?
One, it’s the right thing to do.
Two, if they don’t, they’ll end up receiving their fair share of refugees, which will cost them many times more to house, clothe and feed until the crisis is over.
Three, the UNHCR mission in Turkey can massively ramp-up operations with the right amount of funding, and certain economies of scale will kick-in allowing more aid to be given for the same total amount of dollars.
Four, each refugee turned away, or who believes he will not be helped, may well wind up in the hands of ISIS — who will make a willing terrorist out of him after the right motivation has been applied.
How many thousands of fit and angry young men do we want to fight?
If they hear that help is unavailable to them in Turkey due to insufficient UNHCR funding, to ISIS they will go. Food and shelter, is food and shelter. Only the ‘work’ is different…
Let the developed world show that they can rise to meet the demands placed on Turkey and give the terrified and malnourished refugees fleeing death and destruction all the hope and care that is required.
Let us not fail the victims of our mutual enemy.
In the case of refugees fleeing to Turkey, the rewards will be greater and the karmic punishments far fewer, if we employ the moral imperative to the situation simply by applying the principle of the Golden Rule.
- Turkey hosts 1.37 million Syrian refugees (Turkish Weekly)
- UNHCR Turkey Syrian SitRep for September 12, 2014 (UNHCR)
- ISIS Forces 100,000 Syrian Refugees to Turkey (GuardianLV.com)
- 200,000 flee in biggest displacement of Syrian conflict, monitor says (Reuters/CNN)
- Islamic State closes in on Syrian town, refugees flood into Turkey (Reuters)
- Turkey’s Syrian Refugee Dilemma: From Hospitality to Xenophobia (Turkish Weekly)
- 2014 UNHCR country operations profile – Turkey (UNHCR Turkey profile)
*NOTE* These numbers and budget estimates are current as of January 2014