Turkey’s decision to back to rebels in the Syrian Civil War was seen as a dramatic shift for a nation that has long been change-averse along its borders. Yet as the war drags on and refugees from northern Syria flock to Turkish camps, the foreign policy goals are rapidly being outpaced by the unwelcome burden of having a war on its border.
Dealing with 17 camploads of refugees is quite a burden, but even more so as they accuse a large number of refugees of being involved in “provocations” and violent protests. The government was accused of forcibly repatriating 130 refugees over such protests.
The government denies this, sort of. They initially threatened deportation, but now say the refugees were captured, and threatened with prosecution if they didn’t agree to “voluntarily” return to Syria. A distinction, but much of a difference?
The UN is expressing concern at the incident either way, noting that international law forbids forcibly expelling refugees back to a warzone. Local Turkish officials also say doing so is “out of the question,” but seem hazy on whether coerced expulsion is okay or not.
It is a problem that is likely to grow, as for refugees weeks turn into months and even years and unrest leads to more riots. The problem is likely to impact other nations like Lebanon and Jordan, also dealing with refugees from the Syrian war, but Turkey’s role as an instigator of the rebellion and its location near major battles has made it the primary hub for refugees, and it will struggle to cope with refugee unrest as time goes on.